First things first. No doubt, Rocket Singh Ė Salesman of the Year is an earnest effort and avoids typical Hindi filmi melodramatic storytelling with all its ups and down. But sadly, the film goes completely the other way in not doing the obvious. Thus, what emerges is a genteel, inoffensive, and occasionally heart-warming but fatally slow paced film that stays strictly at one consistent level of storytelling. And being bereft of any ups and downs, it fails to really take off convincingly.
The film is simplistic, maybe too much so, convenient and overlong as it tells its moralistic wafer thin story of a good-at-heart salesman trainee, who with his inert goodness, brings a boorish and inhuman numbers-rather-than-people owner of the company where he works, to his knees. The basic problem is too little happens in the entire first half and the happenings in the second half as the company-within-the-company operates is too little too late. Even this fails to really lift the film as the clandestine thrill and fun this could have had is not really explored thus keeping the narrative flow flat.
True, the film does have its share of likeable moments but these fail to add up to a coherent whole especially as the film begins to lose its focus and drag on and on to an unconvincing and not so well executed finale at a Chroma store. And then thereís the issue of the characterizations as well. While you have to applaud Shimit and writer Jaideep Sahni in making Rocket Singh normal and human against the usual stereotypical funny and stupid sardars we see normally, much of the office crowd and the supporting cast are just not well fleshed out even though youíve seen characters like these. For instance, you never understand Keonaís track with her husband and it would have really made no difference even if he wasnít there at all. While we donít have to obviously see Rocketís romance developing stage by stage, it still comes across as abrupt when Shazahn Padamsee suddenly declares her love for Ranbir.
But what disappoints you the most, especially after having seen both of Shimit Aminís earlier films Ab Tak Chhappan and Chak De! India (both fine films in their own right), is that this film falls short in telling its story cinematically. Rocket Singh is far too verbose rather than visual and though admittedly it does boast of sparkling dialogue in a lot of places, the lack of cinematic treatment tells finally on the film creating enough dull dialogue oriented passages in between the ones that work. Still, this is a Shimit Amin film and there are some fine flourishes that have your admiration. The first telephone sequence in the office between the boss and Rocket has been extremely well-thought out and the shot taking here throughout the scene deserves a special mention but at the same time you cannot help but feel the film needed many more such sequences.
As to the performances, Ranbir Kapoor re-emphasizes yet again what a fine actor star in the making he is as he single-handedly holds the film together. One cannot think of any other stars or actors in Bollywood who can quite combine boyish charm and vulnerability to such potent effect as he can and he is simply getting better and better with each film. The supporting cast of largely unknown actors look real enough but their performances are mixed. In particular, Manish Chaudhari playing the boss, appears to utilise the chance to be seen prominently in a Yashraj film by showing off all the acting he is capable of instead of doing just what the role required while Shazahn is plain embararssing as Ranbir's love interest. However, the casting of D Santosh, Mukesh Bhatt and especially Prem Chopra works surprisingly well as he makes a rather endearing grandfather and it is refreshing to see him not being the Dara Singh type of robust, macho Punjabi male stereotype. Of the rest, the lot playing his college friends come off better than the office crowd.
Technically, thanks to the restraint shown, one has to commend the production design, the costumes and cinematography for being unobtrusive and not attention grabbing. In fact, one can even pay attention to Manas Choudhuryís fine sound design as a pleasantly reined-in Salim-Sulaiman come up with a sober background score for once.
All in all, in spite of having its moments, this rocket fails to convincingly blast off.