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News |  11 Nov 2016 20:22 |  By Suhas Thobbi

Rock On 2 review: Understated music in an exaggerated drama

MUMBAI: In 2010, Bollywood’s most popular trio Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy expressed disappointment over how the actors often receive the credit for the work put by music composers (or singers) into the soundtrack. "Kajra Re is a Aishwarya song," a common way of describing the song among regular cinema-goers irked the vocalist – Shankar Mahadevan - of the trio, and rightly so. In the trio’s defence, people, to date, describe 'Chaiya Chaiya' as "arey..that song with Shah Rukh dancing on train" or the classic example, "remember that Madhuri song Choli Ke Peeche Kya Hai?" Come 11 November, and the three music composers would sing a different tune regarding the 'credit' saga. And the reasons would be Farhan Akhtar and Shraddha Kapoor. “Yes, Rock On 2 is all Farhan and Kapoor," or so would say (rather, we hope they do) the musicians behind yet another of the Ritesh Sidhwani-produced projects.

To review Rock On 2’s soundtrack would be a tricky deal. At no point during the movie, would you feel to even tap your feet as a mark of approval to all the sonic components reaching you. That, apart from the storyline and a few characters, has been the biggest difference between the movie and its prequel. Not a single hummable, memorable or even chart-entering (forget chart-busting) song. Bollywood wrongly selling the storyline of a movie under a catchy symbolic movie title isn’t a new trend. In fact, the sequel’s soundtrack is so regretfully bad that the songs ‘Jaago’ and ‘Udja Re’ make ‘Peechle Saat Dino Mein’ or ‘Sinbad The Sailor’, from its prequel, sound like an album by the British rock giants The Rolling Stones. To put the comparison in perspective, Rock On sounded like The Rolling Stones on drugs, Rock On 2 on the other hand, sounded like the sober The Rolling Stones. (No one wants to hear what the sober British rock giants create). It seemed that the music director and director for the prequel found themselves on the same page with respect to ‘sellable’ music, and they composed the soundtrack around the idea. Here, one cannot even claim that. Rock On 2’s soundtrack clearly exemplifies hit-and-massively-miss scenario.

Associating with Farhan continues to remain one of the trio’s finest decisions of their journey (examples – Dil Chahta Hai, Lakshya, Don and others), however, associating with his voice keeps turning out to be borderline disastrous. One does not even have to put on the headphones or watch the movie to understand how mismatched the combination resulted, just play any of the trio’s music and switch on the grinder for three minutes – you have one of the four Farhan-led songs from the movie. The actor never claimed to be the finest of the vocalists, but putting his voice over anything that is remotely related to the ‘rock’ genre, hoping the outcome would be Dylan-esque due to the rusty vocals and perfectly imperfect vocals is outright naïve and possibly arrogant. Farhan has been taking his audience for granted for way too long. Although fortunately for him, he’s aware of his popularity and that reflects on his live shows under ‘Farhan Live’. The actor and his band recently found itself headlining the biggest music festival in India – NH7 Weekender.

Somehow, the team behind the movie discovered another way to make things worse for the trio with the casting of Shraddha Kapoor. The music director, Akhtar and Sidhwani go way back, and I can only imagine the looks on their faces when someone suggested, “hey, let’s make her sing too.” Shraddha Kapoor projected her love for singing in several promotional activities leading to the movie, and lately, she also mentioned about her newly found love for songwriting. (Hope Farhan asks her to write a song with Javed Akhtar for Rock On 3. After all, why should our beloved music trio bear the crap all alone?)

Even 2011’s Imtiaz Ali directed ‘Rockstar’ managed to justify the title to its story and subsequently the soundtrack (the fact that Rahman was at the helm helped) and appropriately placed songs. Rock On 2, however, is an exaggerated drama with understated music. The lackluster music can be ignored if your movie title says ‘Munna Bhai MBBS’ or ‘Happy New Year’, but if the movie is a sequel to a commercially and critically accepted story that majorly revolves around musicians and their music, then for Leonard Cohen’s sake, focus on the essential aspect. It’s more unfortunate when you hire three musicians with expertise in the genres of classical Carnatic, Blues/Soul and Jazz music, and produce some forced tunes with a layer of pretentious rock vocals on it.

For whatever reasons Shankar Ehsaan Loy chose to contribute to this project (also receiving harsh criticism for its storyline), the only consolation arrives from the movie score. Or perhaps, the fact that the songs were despicably poor played an important role towards audience’s thirst for good music, any music. Ironically, the best song of the movie arrived from Shillong’s ‘Summersalt’ who collaborated with Usha Uthup to create a Khasi folk fusion composition near to the end of the movie. (The movie also briefly features Vishal Dadlani-led Mumbai electro-rock band Pentagram’s ‘Tomorrow’s Decided’ off its albu ‘Bloodywood’).

That, and the portions between the other songs, (also the silence between the dialogues) collectively generate the acceptable sonic memories for the audience who exited the screening doors complaining "This Farhan's music is terrible, man." Also Sidhwani and Farhan, we have heard enough of ‘Magik’, can we have some of the real Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy, please?