2022 SU General Election Full Supplement

Phot courtesy IMDb

Movie review: Rocky Aur Rani Ki Prem Kahani

By Nimra Amir, September 14 2023—

Disclaimer: This article contains spoilers for the movie Rocky Aur Rani Ki Prem Kahani.

The recently released romantic-comedy Rocky Aur Rani Ki Prem Kahani (2023) directed by Karan Johar, like most Bollywood movies, is flashy with catchy dance sequences and dramatic dialogues but also tackles the serious themes of family dynamics in a way completely unique to itself. 

The movie starts with an introduction to the traditional Punjabi Randhawa family led by the matriarch Dhanlakshmi (Jaya Bachchan) with business owner son Tijori (Aamir Bashir) over stay-at-home wife Punam (Kshitee Jog) and their two children Rocky (Ranveer Singh) and Gayatri (Anjali Anand) — in place of the patriarch Kanwal (Dharmendra Kewal Krishan Deol). But what seems like a normal family is revealed to be complicated once Kanwal, who is a wheelchair-bound amnesiac, mistakes a stranger to be his old lover Jamini (Shabana Azmi). 

It is once Rocky finds a photograph of Jamini that we have an introduction to the progressive Bengali Chatterjee family through famous television news anchor Rani (Alia Bhatt) raised by English professor Anjali (Churni Ganguly) and professional Kathak dancer Chandon (Tota Roy Chowdhury) — along with grandmother Jamini. 

When Rocky and Rani decide to unite old lovers Kanwal and Jamini, they too quickly fall in love but because of the cultural differences between the families, they decide to test their relationship by switching houses for a three-month period before getting married. 

Of course, as Jamini says “Rishte ki steering wheel bhalei apne haath mein ho, backseat driving family hi karti hain.” Or, translated in English, “Even if you have the steering wheel of the relationship, it is the family that does the backseat driving.”

The messages sent through the three-month period in the movie like that men can cook or women can work may not be politically groundbreaking by any means but are still important. 

The main crux of the movie though was whether elders in a family like matriarch Dhanlakshmi or son Tijori are owed respect in the form of obedience just because of their position in the family hierarchy. This is not the first Johar movie to tackle the topic. In fact, Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham (2001) takes on the same topic of elders interfering with a new relationship because they believe they are owed respect in the form of obedience just because of their position in the family hierarchy. But this is not to say that the movies are the same. Although Rocky Aur Rani Ki Prem Kahani follows a style of Bollywood that is loved by many, it is clear that an effort was made to differentiate Rocky Aur Rani Ki Prem Kahani from previous Bollywood movies like Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham by placing the topic of family hierarchy in a modern setting with a modern resolution as both matriarch Dhanlakshmi and son Tijori apologise to Rani. 

Rocky Aur Rani Ki Prem Kahani does not stop there as it went on to focus on the modern problems that progressive families may have too. Rocky is ridiculed for his lack of general knowledge and berated for his every problematic comment or action. So, his ignorance of what is politically correct because of the family he was raised in is not an excuse for every problematic comment or action he makes with good intentions — yet the point of the criticism he deserves should not be to cancel him but to educate him.

It should be a given that being criticized for a problematic comment or action because you are an uneducated man and being stopped from working because you are a woman are not on the same level of severity but for the point of the movie, the complaint of cancel culture had sufficed to give Rocky his due character development. 

That is what Rocky Aur Rani Ki Prem Kahani does well. It does not try to be anything more than it is — a fun movie with simple but important messages that showcase how family dynamics on both traditional and progressive sides can do better to create space for each other, whether that means apologizing for an offence or even offering nonjudgmental education.

Hiring | Staff | Advertising | Contact | PDF version | Archive | Volunteer | SU

The Gauntlet