Nobody ever discussed the nature of music played by Indian rock bands in the original ‘Rock On’, but they do here. Little of the plot in this sequel is about what happens next to the rock stars of the iconic band, ‘Magik’, after they get back together after 8 years. The film is all about the story of how Jiah Sharma (Shraddha Kapoor), gets to meet the band at an audition, and is then invited to play for them.
Jiah is the daughter of a well known Hindustani classical musician (Kumud Mishra), who has a rather supercilious attitude to Western rock. He is disdainful of Indian musicians who do what he calls ‘fusion’, adding the piano and guitar to Indian instruments and making music. He is so pained at the compositions of his own son, that he derides it , and this eventually leads to the boy’s suicide. Deeply affected by this death, Jiah, also a talented musician like her brother, goes to Meghalaya in order to retreat from her life in Mumbai. There she records local folk music, which adds to her musical education and leads her to create some interesting work of her own.
When Aditya (Farhan Akhtar) hears her at the audition, he asks her to join ‘Magik’ for a concert in Meghalaya, where he once did some social welfare work at a remote village. Apparently, the villagers are now in trouble because a forest fire has destroyed everything. So Aditya wants to raise money to help them, and what better way than making music in Shillong, the rock capital of India. Other band members, Joe Mascarenhas (Arjun Ramphal) and KD ( Purab Kohl) enthusiastically join the effort and they head off for a ‘Unity in Shillong’ concert.
The concert at the end of the film has some great blend of local talent and Indian rock, and is beautifully shot, but arrives too late in the movie to hold you. The sub-plots in the film, particularly the one about how rock singer Aditya turns into a social worker in Meghalaya to escape disillusionment and guilt in his personal life, appear forced, and take up too much time. The subsequent effort of explaining how good music is a blend of tradition in classical, folk and modern, is to be lauded, but has no dramatic impact of its own on the narrative.
It was the fire and the passion in the characters and their desperate need to prove that a Western style rock band could make hit music in India, that worked for the original film. In this sequel, unfortunately, the band members have become loners and drifters, and while this might be true to life for such bands that split up and then reunite years later, it does not make for engaging cinema.