ROCKET SINGH, SALESMAN OF THE YEAR. Director: Shimit Amin. Players: Ranbir Kapoor, Shazahn Padamsee, Prem Chopra, Gauhar Khan, Music: Salim-Suleiman. Theatrical release: Yash Raj Films


2009 may well have ended as the year of “idiots” as far as Bollywood is concerned. Just ahead of Rajkumar Hirani’s 3 Idiotscame this film about a 37.5% pass loveable idiot Sardar with his heart in the right place.

Finally it seems that the screen belongs to the average guy, for Rocket Singh is not about a larger-than-life hero but a Joe Blow: average in studies, fond of the occasional drink and having a blast with friends, at the same time god-fearing enough to brush his teeth when he looks at the gently questioning eyes of Guru Nanak on his screen-saver!

Erroneously perceived as a comedy, Rocket Singh belongs to the small stable of meaningful cinema. What makes it even better is that being meaningful doesn’t automatically make it belch out morals at you.

Harpreet Singh Bedi (Kapoor), a below average student, is blissful that he managed to pass college, even if it is with the barest minimum marks possible. A banner at the graduation party proclaims, “We passed, the college failed.” Seemingly innocuous, this is one telling smack on the nose on higher education in India, which scatters degrees left, right, and center, but is least bothered about the quality of education or its utility in real life.

Harpreet manages to land a job as a salesman at a firm selling assembled computers. Soon he learns to his disgust that honesty is apparently not the best policy at work. His attempts to walk the straight and narrow path lead to professional humiliation for the newbie as he is ostracized by his colleagues and taunted with the juvenile prank of paper rockets. The turning point of the film comes when the humiliated Harpreet decides to take on his boss on his own ground and decides to show him that business can be done ethically as well.

With his gritty core and strong belief in himself “number kam hain, dimaag nahin,” he sets to work on his terms—integrity, honesty, respect for all. How he matches these against his sly boss and wins is what makes Rocket Singha wake-up call for those who cave in to the compromises the world demands and learn to toe to line.

To the director’s credit, the movie doesn’t digress even once from its central theme. The mandatory romance is glossed over quickly and is seamlessly integrated into the plot. Kapoor, who grew facial hair for the movie, rocks as the “normal” Sardar; a rare breed on the silver-screen, where movies insist on portraying the ethnic group either as loud, funny, or jingoistic.

Veteran Chopra lives the role of the indulgent grandpa, who cooks dal for his grandson but is also all for ordering pizza to celebrate his success!

The superlative performances from the entire supporting cast take the movie to another level of credibility. The porn-downloading engineer, the eyelash-batting receptionist, the crafty boss, the sly owner of the company, and their evolution as the movie progresses is the stuff good movies are made of.

The review won’t be complete without a mention of the art direction; true, the movie doesn’t have the trademark grandeur associated with Yash-Raj Films, but that is what makes everything, from the modest house where the hero lives to his workplace, so delightfully life-like.

All in all, a worthy successor, though in a different league, to Chak de India, Director Shimit Amin’s debut effort. Amin pairs once again with Jaideep Sahni, the writer of Chak De, and the pair is one to watch out for.

Entertainment Quotient (EQ): B

Madhumita Gupta is a freelance writer, teacher, and children’s author based in India.

Madhumita Gupta has written for The Times of India, Hindustan Times, and the India Currents. Her prize-winning stories have been published in various anthologies and international publications like SAWF...