Director Abhishek Kapoor and producer Farhan Akhtar have pulled out all stops to make Rock On!! look genuine and sound authentic
For many decades, Bollywood’s leading men have faked their way through movies as musicians playing a plethora of instruments – remember Dilip Kumar on the piano in Ram Aur Shyam, Sanjeev Kumar on the harmonium in Daasi, Amitabh Bachchan on the sitar in Aalap and the mouth organ in Sholay, Dev Anand on the sax in Amir Garib and piano in Teen Deviyan? The guitar, of course, has been a big favourite since the influence of rock & roll arrived on our shores in the Sixties – Tariq Hussain and Zeenat Aman in Yaadon Ki Baarat, Rishi Kapoor in Karz, Hrithik Roshan in Kaho Na Pyaar Hai and more recently, Bachchan again with his double-neck guitar in Jhoom Barabar Jhoom. Some of them even managed to coax Claptonesque electric guitar leads from acoustic six-strings.
Which is why it is very refreshing to see the efforts that writer/director of Rock On!!, Abhishek “Gattu” Kapoor, has put in to get that “authentic” feel in India’s first rock film. The 37-year-old Kapoor, nephew to Seventies superstar Jeetendra, started out as a small-time actor in films like Aashique Mastane (1995), Uff! Yeh Mohabbat (1997) and Shikaar (2000) before directing a dud called Aryan two years ago. The idea of a film based around rock music came to him after Aryan, when he was spending long hours listening to the likes of Coldplay, the Dave Matthews Band and Green Day on his new iPod. “I had just finished my earlier film and had a lot of time on my hands,” he says. Rock On!! is about four guys with different personalities who form a rock band, disband and then regroup years later. “This film is about the setbacks and difficulties rock musicians face in a system where only Bollywood music prevails,” says Kapoor.
As Kapoor saw it, authenticity was key. He wanted a lead actor and “it didn’t matter if the guy’s voice was the most accepted voice or not, but he had to be a singer”. There isn’t any leading man in Bollywood who comes with those kind of credentials. But he didn’t think of anyone else because he had Farhan Akhtar in mind when he was writing the film. The ace director, he had heard, was a passionate singer, and was also dabbling in acting. “Gattu was very sure that he wanted the lead actor to sing his own parts – he wanted that realism in the film. And when I heard that, my first instinct was that it might disqualify me,” says Farhan.
What Kapoor didn’t know was that Farhan had, over the last decade or so, learnt to play the guitar. “The opportunity in this film was great because it was in a genre that I totally enjoy ”“ which is rock,” Farhan says. “And anyone who learns guitar at some level learns it because they are into rock music. And they learn the first chords of ”˜Smoke On the Water.’ It stems from there. So I decided that I should work hard towards making it a reality. And I dedicated a lot of effort towards doing it.”