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Monday, January 25, 2010

Rocket Singh: Salesman of The Year (2009)

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.


  1. I saw so many ads and hoardings of this film all over the place when it was released that I somehow got put off... for some odd reason, I also thought it was one of those condescending 'sikh but not-quite-hero' films, which cheese me off completely. But am going to see this, as soon as I get back to Delhi!

    P.S. Salman Khan, shirtless? Shudder!

  2. I was under the impression that it was best to pass this one up, but now both you and Darshit at Movies, Music and Me recommend this one. I guess I'll have to look for it on my next visit to the city.

    also, I third the Salman thought.

  3. Yaay! Someone other than me liked this film! This was a really charming slice of life kinda of a film, and the tone really reminded me a bit of Hrishikesh Mukherjee film! But of course, i watched it for RANBIRR!!! SQUEAL! He was so good in this, and he can really act like the boy next door! I think i must have been the only one in the cinema hall who didnt fall asleep!

  4. dustedoff, Ranbir is probably being marketed even more aggressively in India right now, than Hrithik was before Kaho Na Pyar Hai! That would put me off, too. I just saw the film promo once - it looked interesting. Plus, after Wake Up Sid, I was willing to give Ranbir more than a fair chance. ;-D Do watch this one - it is so NOT another Singh is King.

    shell, Salman is firmly in the avoid yaar category, something that film definitely shouldnt be.

    Rum, the office scenes reminded me a bit of office scenes from Basu Chatterji's Chhoti Si Baat! It is a pretty up-to-date version of Hrishikesh Mukherjee/Basu Chatterji films. :-D

  5. Ranbir is proving to be everyone's fave guy at the moment, i liked him in Bachna ae haseeno but i was a bit lost on him after seeing Ajab prem Ki Ghazab Kahani which i hated, it was torture.

    Following all the glowing reviews in bolly blogland of Wake up sid and now your review of this i'll wait to rent this, by the way how are you doing with your resolutions have you bought any more dvds yet :0)

  6. Good review. I liked Rocket Singh very much (and WUS too). I wonder if the dahi tradition is to cool an overheated brain just before an exam! (LoL)

  7. Unlike Shell, I thought everyone and their dog loved this, and I am glad to get another recommendation from someone whose thoughts on films I understand very well! It looks adorable, even if I am getting a smidge tired of movies about 22-year-olds. (Not that they are an automatically bad or boring topic - I just seem to have seen quite a few lately and need a change.) (Though this is definitely in my queue.)

    I also say BRAVO to you for using "conscious" and "conscience" in the same sentence without getting confused!

  8. Loved the movie. Loved your review. Loved screencaps with taglines :P need i say anything more?? oh yes, Loving Ranbeer day by day :)

  9. Somehow I couldn't go for this movie. Had to go for a friend's wedding the week this movie was released and after that the near by theaters stopped playing it (guess not many went for it).
    But got a DVD now, will watch it soon. I usually don't miss out on Ranbir Kapoor movies.
    Ajab Prem was stretched too much in the second half, but I really enjoyed watching Wake Up Sid though it was very predictable.
    The way Hrithik was marketed before (even now for that matter) Kaho Na Pyaar Hai , I still don't like him. There's so much of hype created about everything he does. Ranbir, I feel maintains a low profile. He does sell his movies - gives few interviews and makes an appearance in Reality shows to promote his movies (that's the trend these days, apart from the music and trialers), but is modest and always comes across as a guy-next-door.
    But the ads and gets into my nerves. Too many channels I guess, every two minutes they show the same trailer and the same songs. I get so fed up of them even before the movie is released. So I try my best not to watch any of these channels.

  10. bollywooddeewana, Ajab... was certainly bad, but I thought Ranbir looked cute - maybe I am prejudiced? ;-)

    My resolutions? They're being kept on the blog, not in real life. I've already acquired several more films that I may not see for years!

    Filmbuff, considering how much work the brain performs during exam, even a bucketful of dahi wont be enough to cool it!

    Beth, it would be nice to see some grown ups in movies. I am just thankful that today's 22year olds are getting out of colleges and learning/doing things!

    PS: I didnt even think consciously about conscience! :-)

    Darshit, thanks! Ranbir does seem to be doing some fun films, but I am hoping he will do some grown-up roles, for a change.

    sunheriyaadein, one advantage of not living in India is that I dont have to see all the hype and can approach a film without (well-founded) prejudices. I remember being so put off by all the Hrithik hype that I almost didnt go to watch Kaho Na Pyar Hai - and it turned out to be a pretty entertaining flick after all! I wonder if filmmakers realise how off-putting their saturation advertising is.

  11. I absolutely loved this movie and am happy to see there are others who liked this movie as well. I believe it did not do as well as I thought it would...I enjoyed your screen caps and their captions as well as your review :-)

  12. So, bollyviewer, would you say this isn't a suitable movie for someone with a really short attention span at the moment? Because I am all for slice-of-life, but lately I need the shiny-pretty to stay focused.

  13. I second Bollyviewer's comment about the advantage of not living in India and being lucky to escape all that tiresome over marketing of films to the point of kill. Film makers in India don't seem to leave the audience the thrill of finding out "what a movie is all about" these days. Also I notice during my visits, that 90% of the channels seem to be totally filmy based or saas bahu serials which is another yawn!

  14. S, I wonder why this one didnt do too well - its such intelligent fluff (if any movie can be both)!

    ajnabi, for shiny pretty, you might want to try Wake Up Sid. But, if you liked Chak De! you might enjoy this too. Its a film that never loses its focus to meander into songs, comedy, or any other normal masala stuff - so your attention never gets a chance to wander!

    Filmbuff, I did subscribe to B4U Movies for a while because I loved catching up on promos - until I realised that the promos only changed once every 3-4 months. For the rest of the time, it was the same promos day in and day out, with a few "making of" interviews thrown in where everybody talked about having worked in a very "family" atmosphere and that their role was zara hatke. Thank goodness they cant do this to old films!

  15. I thought this was Ranbir's strongest showing as an actor. I sometimes can't believe this is the same kid who made me cringe my way through Saawariya. So thanks for that SLB!

    * Funnily, I liked Salman in that movie. Topsy turvy land!

  16. Amrita, it did cross my mind to try and watch Saawariya (how bad could it be with Ranbir and the towel?), but if Salman was the best thing about the film, then even a FF button cant sustain me through the film!

  17. I am watching this right far loving it. I had to stop to run errands (but instead I'm online)

  18. Cant wait to hear what you think of it. And I take online breaks from movies all the time!

  19. Loved Rocket Singh - and I thought Gauhar Khan was great - loved her over-the-top eyeshadow and her spunk. And I actually liked how the movie did not paint anyone as purely black OR white. This is one director I will watch purely on his name alone - even the Chopra camp could not make him plant a song in mustard fields. By the way, his first movie was a great watch - Ab tak Chappan.

    I think Hrithik Roshan is the male version of Aishwarya Rai - too pretty by half. The NYT review of Jodha Akbar said that watching that movie was like watching a promotion of the science of Eugenics - two incredibly beautiful people onscreen and one truly forgets the movie.

    And he is also only as good as his director. I mean, I watched Main Prem ki Deewani hoon, and yearned for Salman Khan in his place. Both he and Kareena were a.w.f.u.l. Abhiskek and Pankaj Kapoor were the only two good things about that movie.

    And by the way, I know I am going fall 'app ki nazron mein' but I have a soft spot for Salman Khan - with or without his shirt. :)

  20. I must admit that I've never yearned for Salman Khan in any film, but I know what you mean about Main Prem Ki Diwaani Hoon. :) It really was awful. I was still in my post-Kaho Na Pyaar Hai-Hrithik-love phase and managed to make it through the whole film, but I wouldn't watch it again if I were paid to!!!

    I did not realise Ab Tak Chhappan was Shimit Amin too. Thought Chak De! India was his directorial debut. He does make some very watchable films.