What is it about idealism that is so attractive? While a shirtless Salman leaves me completely unmoved*, a self-less social worker or an idealistic writer makes me melt with the “milk of human kindness”. Put that idealism into an underdog, and you have a sure-fire hit, as far as OiG is concerned! And that is exactly what Shimit Amin-Jaideep Sahani do in Rocket Singh. They create an everyman hero who is helplessly idealistic and a complete babe-in-the-woods for the milieu he chooses. The result is fairly predictable, but so very heart-warming!
Harpreet Singh Bedi (Ranbir Kapoor) or ‘HP’ as his friends call him, is an average Joe. He barely scrapes through his BCom finals (he does seem to be better than Sid, at exams!) and doesnt dare sit for the CAT (entrance exam for MBA in India), because he knows his intellectual limitations. So, he sets his sights on a job in sales because there, “brains are more useful than numbers”.
Once the post-college euphoria is over, Harpreet starts the round of applications and interviews, with only grandpa PS Bedi (Prem Chopra)’s blessings and dahi for moral support. (dahi = yoghurt which is traditionally fed to kids before an exam) At his first interview, Harpreet is asked to demonstrate his sales skills by selling a pencil to the interviewer. Harpreet’s hesitant sales pitch doesnt impress the sales manager Nitin (Naveen Kaushik). However, the company’s head honcho - Mr. Puri (Manish Chaudhary) – is impressed by Harpreet’s persistence in the face of a hopeless customer. And thats how Harpreet starts a career in computer sales.
Day one on the job finds a buoyant Harpreet, all set to make his mark in sales. Nitin introduces him to clients and shows him the ropes. Harpreet is so impressed by Nitin’s sales skills that you can almost see him shout, “My Hero!”. On day two, Harpreet is let loose on the unsuspecting clients. He approaches an official in a client company to get an order, and is shocked when the official asks for a kickback! Indignantly, he walks out, and files an official complaint with the client company’s grievance section.
Full of righteous satisfaction, Harpreet reports back to Nitin on his prompt strike against corruption. Sadly for Harpreet, Nitin doesnt rush to pin an honesty medal on him. In fact, both Nitin and Puri are horrified at his behavior. Harpreet is grounded for spoiling the company’s relations with a client. He loses his place in the salesman-union and is demoted to office duty. His only contact with clients is now limited to the ones safely at the other end of a phone.
This is just the beginning of Harpreet’s trials. The competitive sales team that welcomed him as a newbie just a day ago, now turns against him. Sensing a beaten competitor, they go out of their way to be nasty to him, even pelting him with paper rockets! Even his best friend (who is the actor?) is no help. He thinks Harpreet should put AYS Computers (his employer) behind him and start over, somewhere else. But Harpreet is not willing to run away – honesty isnt a crime, after all!
Koena (Gauhar Khan) – the office receptionist – is Harpreet’s only sympathiser. She prompts him to deal with a potential client, since he might as well be sacked for making a sale as not! When Harpreet goes to close the deal, he discovers that the client, Sherena (Shazahn Padamsee), needs a computer that AYS cannot supply. To help her, he tries to find an alternate source, and lands up getting computers assembled for her. (Wonder if he’d show the same initiative if the client wasnt as gorgeous as Sherena…) In the process, he learns that he can provide better products and services for less than what AYS charges. Thats when Rocket Sales is born. Its a company run with only one idea in mind – customer satisfaction (the real kind, not the TV-ad kinds)!
With his computer-geek colleague - Girish Reddy (D. Santosh) - in charge of production and service, Rocket Sales is soon a thriving concern, operating inside AYS! When a much-deserved promotion bypasses Koena, Harpreet recruits her as office manager of their surreptitious concern. He insists that every member of the Rocket Sales team be an equal partner in the enterprise – something that pays rich dividends. Not only does Rocket Sales attract more “partners” from among his AYS colleagues, all the partners also work with a will to make the company a success.
Mr. Puri soon begins loosing clients to Rocket Sales’ cheaper products and reliable after-sales service. AYS’s declining sales rings warning bells with Puri, who begins to investigate Rocket Sales quite aggressively. While his partners are terrified of being discovered by Puri, Harpreet is very conscious of using AYS resources to fuel his own company – not something he can easily square with his conscience.
Thus far, the story followed a natural progression of events and flowed pretty well. There was growing camaraderie among the partners, a budding romance between HP and Sherena and everything was right with the world. I was a bit apprehensive about how it would all get resolved, though. Just where would Harpreet and Rocket Sales end up finally? What would happen if/when Puri discovered the truth behind Rocket Sales? I needn't have worried. Without spoiling it for those of you havent seen it yet, I’ll just say – satisfactory dénouement.
If Shimit Amin-Jaideep Sahani achieved an interesting mix of sports and feminism in Chak De! India, they manage to achieve an even more interesting mix in this idealistic but cynical look at business ethics. Harpreet is an honest man, driven into less-than-honest behaviour because he cannot be dishonest – an irony that the script does full justice to. Yes, the story is fairly predictable, and yes, the film comes down heavily on the side of “good” in the best filmi tradition. But it does all this with engaging charm and without ever getting preachy or heavy-handed! And it is a refreshing change from the usual boy-meets-girl-and-love-and-angst-follow sort of films.**
Ranbir Kapoor is, of course, responsible for a lot of the film’s charm. He is so believable as the salesman-next-door and so endearing in his dewy-eyed honesty that I for one, had no trouble buying his naiveté or his idealism. Hell, even Neetu’s eyes staring out from his face dont bother me anymore! The rest of the cast is also superb. Prem Chopra is adorable as the ditzy grandpa – quite a change from his smarmy villain roles in the '60s and '70s. But my favorite was Gauhar Khan as the (slightly) rough and resourceful Koena – a career woman with ambitions! YAY!!
*Not really! A shirtless Salman, or any Salman at all, does move me to use the fast-forward (or channel-change) button on my remote.
**I do love a well made rom-com, but its nice to have something else for a change.