What happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object?
When I ask this well-known question, I’m referring to neither of the two people mentioned in the title of the film – “Rocky aur Rani kii Prem Kahani.” It has more to do with what the film’s ultimate concept is all about.
Coming from the director whose works like “K3G” and “My Name is Khan” are widely celebrated all over India, Karan Johar yet again knocks it out of the park with “Rocky aur Rani kii Prem Kahani.” There are elements to always expect from a KJ film, like amazing visuals, breathtaking memorable music, star-studded cameos, and most importantly—family drama.
The concept looks simple, but the way they let in all the factions one by one is what makes all the difference. No character is the same in this, and that’s the beauty of it. Mastery of execution! It starts with the story of two lovers – Kanwal (Dharmendra) and Jamini (Shabana Azmi) and slowly paves the way for the story of Rocky (Ranveer Singh) and Rani (Alia Bhatt). At first, I thought this story was pretending to be woke to make the main characters look stronger, but then it slowly invited the two major families of our story – the Randhawas and the Chatterjees. Both families are vividly different in their cultures, traditions, and ideologies, which in many ways perfectly shape the characters in the film.
The Randhawa family is very patriarchal. Although, technically, it’s matriarchal, considering Dhanalakshmi (Jaya Bachchan) is the one puppeteering the entire family. But the culture of patriarchy exists here, and it has an effect on the family as a whole. Except for Kanwal, who’s more like our other family, the Chatterjees. They are lovers of art, poetry, music, and dance, which at first makes us feel as if the two families are polar opposites, but as the film progresses, we realize how broken the systems of both families are and how much the new generation that is on the rise is affected by it.
I wouldn’t necessarily say anything positive or negative about the patriarchal system other than that it’s an old way of society. The ideologies back then were made into consideration with the way of life of that era. Now, times have changed, and they’re progressing every day rapidly. Everything that was common once is a trigger point now. The world, as it moves so fast, is also fragile right now because the old ways are hurting the change which is why handling it with a bit of love, patience, and an open mind is what is truly needed now.
So, in a way, the old ways that aren’t progressive are like an immovable object, and the rapidly changing modern times are like an unstoppable force. They can be very destructive when they collide, and that is really where the film shines. Each and every character portrays an element of society, either progressively independent or progressively broken or orthodox or maybe… just caught in between.
Kshitee Jog as Punam Randhawa, Rocky’s mother, and Anjali Anand as Gayatri “Golu” Randhawa, Rocky’s sister, portray the victims of a patriarchal system as they find themselves constantly compromising their desires because of what the household patriarchal order dictates them to do. Punam wants to sing, and Gayatri wants to pursue a career, but one is stuck being a housewife because singing is considered an act of low-class people, and the other never has a say in anything, and she has to accept what is being thrown at her. The idea of bottling up is constantly present in the film, and it breaks as it should.
The Chatterjee family seems culturally rich and modern, but the problem with them is how they see those who aren’t the same as them. They’re well-educated people and they consider the lack of education and lack of artistic regard for high art as lowly. And this status is laughed at by the Randhawa family when Chandon Chatterjee (Tota Roy Chowdhury), Rani’s father, performs Kathak at a wedding at the Randhawas. Both families consider themselves honorable and laugh at each other because of their differences.
Ranveer Singh perfectly embodies the “different” that the Randhawa family had and that they needed while Rani is a strong independent character. They both are a perfectly like-minded couple that invoke a rebellion in the hearts of everyone else, which makes the film’s climax even more exquisite. The Randhawas learn why a new way of thinking but with the same love is how we should progress as a society, whereas the Chatterjees get to learn that education and standards and everything are small in front of someone with a big heart. In a way, not just Rocky and Rani, but the families complete each other.
But by the end, I even feel a bit sad for Dhanalakshmi. As did she herself, she was too inclined with her old ways that now it was too late for her to return, but I really loved how she gave Rani the secret recipe to her signature ladoos.
The performances by everyone are perfect in their part. Churni Ganguly perfectly embodies Anjali Chatterjee, Rani’s mother, as someone who is very educated and yet someone who still has a conscience. I really loved the scene between her and Rocky while buying lingerie. And every time she brought up words like racist, sexist, etc., it’s exactly how I know today’s generation to behave, which is why I feel everyone needs a bit of patience to understand each other so we as a society can move on without being depressed about old slangs or being confused about why the slangs are offensive. Just a tiny bit of patience and love.
The songs in this film are amazingly beautiful, and the cinematography complements it even more. The old songs and remixes and everything seem perfect, which is very rare because it’s not every day someone tries to remix an old Indian classic and gets it right. Manush Nandan amazingly shot the film, especially the wedding scene at the end that looked like a designer clothes and jewelry ad at times but still captures the beauty perfectly. The colors are so perfectly blended, especially the dance during the Durgotsav. The reds look brilliant, and Jaya Bachchan wearing blue just looks magnificent. And as someone who’s obsessed with black clothes with silver/golden patterns on them, along with that and the rest of the costumes, I’d say this film has a costume design marvel.
I’d like to say that “Rocky aur Rani kii Prem Kahani” is a perfectly regular love story with super-grounded layers that make it worthy of multiple watches. Not just the chemistry of the couples or the political arcs of the families and society as a whole, but the film is enjoyable even as it is. Although, in mamy ways, this is the commentary I wish Barbie had. With the beautiful visuals, music, and the whole vibe of it all, I’d rate this film five stars.