x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Rockstar: to reach stardom, break your heart first

We talk to the director and stars of the the movie Rockstar, about a boy whose music dreams are met with laughter.

Ranbir Kapoor in Rockstar. Courtesy Eros International Ltd
Ranbir Kapoor in Rockstar. Courtesy Eros International Ltd

Director: Imtiaz Ali
Starring: Ranbir Kapoor, Nargis Fakhri, Shammi Kapoor

The 40-year-old director Imtiaz Ali (Jab we Met) thought back to his college days when coming up with the story for his new film Rockstar.

"All of us have seen these wannabe musicians, guys who play guitar and want to be a westernised rock star," he says. "I've hung around many of these guys while in college."

Starring Ranbir Kapoor and the model Nargis Fakhri in her big-screen debut, Rockstar tells the tale of a middle-class boy named Janardan (Kapoor) whose efforts to become a musician are met with laughter. He then realises that all big musicians have some tragedy or heart-break in their lives and so he sets about creating his own. He decides that he needs the school diva Heer Kaul (Fakhri) to break his heart and sets about attempting to woo her.

To prepare for the role, Kapoor took guitar lessons from the film's composer, the music legend - and the Slumdog Millionaire composer - AR Rahman.

As for Kapoor, the 29-year-old actor was adamant that his take on a musician would not be completely westernised.

"In India we don't have a rock-star character, my character is not influenced by Kurt Cobain or Jim Morrison," he says.

"It's more about the character's journey that spans seven years and the influence that he has. Even the soundtrack is not particularly all rock album songs from different genres, the title Rockstar is important to the film, but he's not that leather jacket-wearing, guitar-breaking cool guy that we are all exposed to. It's another take."

Playing his love interest is the New York-based model Fakhri, who learnt to speak Hindi to play the role.

On making the switch to acting, she said: "It's a whole other ball game, you go from smiling and wearing bikinis and lying on beaches to suffering emotional trauma, letting go and trusting someone so much. I had to do all that, and that is the biggest challenge because in real life, you don't really put your trust completely in someone. It was scary stuff."

The production of the film met with some controversy, as banners proclaiming "Free Tibet" can be seen at some of the concerts. The director says reports that the filmmakers were asked to blur the signs by the country's censors are incorrect.

"We see a lot of people who are settlers in India from Tibet," he says.

Rockstar is also noteworthy for featuring the final appearance of Kapoor's great uncle, the acting legend Shammi Kapoor. The actor and director pleaded with the man called the "Desi Elvis Presley" to come out of retirement. "I feel happy he did a movie before he went," says Ali. "He had not worked in 10 years, he is an actor, his soul is that of an actor, he did all the good things and bad things that an actor does.

"But he had a lot of health issues and I feel happy that all of us contributed to making him work again one final time, before he went away."

Rockstar opens in UAE cinemas today