Rocky Aur Rani Kii Prem Kahaani (transl. Rocky and Rani’s Love Story), is a 2023 Indian Hindi-language romantic comedy family drama film directed by Karan Johar and written by Ishita Moitra, Shashank Khaitan and Sumit Roy. The film stars Ranveer Singh and Alia Bhatt as a couple with contrasting personalities who decide to live with each other’s families for three months before getting married. Dharmendra, Jaya Bachchan, Shabana Azmi, Tota Roy Chowdhury, Churni Ganguly, Aamir Bashir, and Kshitee Jog play their family members.
Produced under Dharma Productions and Viacom18 Studios, the film was announced in July 2021, marking Johar’s feature film comeback after Ae Dil Hai Mushkil (2016). Principal photography took place from August 2021 to March 2023 in Mumbai, New Delhi, and Jammu & Kashmir. Filming and release were delayed by a few months due to Bhatt’s pregnancy. The music of the film was composed by Pritam and the cinematography handled by Manush Nandan.
Rocky Aur Rani Kii Prem Kahaani was released on 28 July 2023 to positive reviews from critics. Made on a production budget of ₹160 crore (US$20 million) and marketing cost of ₹18 crore (US$2.3 million), it has grossed over ₹355 crore (US$44 million) worldwide, emerging as the year’s sixth highest-grossing Indian film and fourth highest-grossing Hindi film.
The Randhawas are a Punjabi family who own the prosperous Dhanlakshmi Sweets, named after their matriarch Dhanlakshmi Randhawa. Her husband, Kanwal Lund, is amnesiac and wheelchair-bound after an accident. Their son, Tijori, is much like Dhanlakshmi, and they commandeer over the household, including Tijori’s meek wife, Punam, and his two adult children, Rocky and Gayatri. One day, when Kanwal mistakes a lady for a woman named Jamini, Rocky finds a photograph of Jamini and starts looking for her.
Jamini is the grandmother of Rani Chatterjee, a famous television news anchor. Rani comes from an intellectual Bengali family whose mother, Anjali, is an English professor, and father, Chandon, is a professional Kathak dancer. Rocky and Rani decide to unite Jamini and Kanwal. Kanwal eventually recognises Jamini and kisses her in front of his family. It is revealed that they had a brief extra-marital affair back in 1978. Rocky and Rani set up meetings between their grandparents during which they start their own relationship.
Rocky tries to propose to Rani, but she rejects him, dismissing their relationship as a fling. However, she eventually realises her love for him. Because of the cultural differences between the two households, the two switch houses for three months to break the patriarchal cycle prevalent in Indian society.
Rani tries to make the women of Rocky’s family more independent, much to the anger of Dhanlakshmi and Tijori. Rocky finds himself being ridiculed by the Chatterjees for his lack of general knowledge. During a wedding ceremony for Rocky’s friend, Chandon is laughed at by the crowd when he performs an effeminate Kathak dance. Rocky apologises and endears himself to the Chatterjees by being willing to change his patriarchal ways. He also starts attending Chandon’s dance classes.
At the Durga Puja celebrations, Rocky and Chandon dance together to “Dola Re Dola,” which angers Tijori. During the confrontation that follows, Rani, in a fit of anger, pushes Tijori. Rocky finds it disrespectful and the two end their relationship. Back home, Tijori tries to hit Punam when she tries to assert herself. Seeing this, Rocky stands up to his father for the first time and decides to leave the household along with his sister and mother. Kanwal finally recognises his son but dies.
A few months later, Tijori, a changed man, visits the Chatterjee household to apologise. Rocky and Rani finally get married and Dhanlakshmi sends the secret recipe of their sweets to Rani, accepting her as a family member, but does not attend the wedding.
- Ranveer Singh as Rocky Randhawa
- Alia Bhatt as Rani Chatterjee
- Jaya Bachchan as Dhanalakshmi Randhawa, Rocky’s grandmother
- Dharmendra as Kanwal Lund, Rocky’s grandfather
- Shabana Azmi as Jamini Chatterjee, Rani’s grandmother
- Tota Roy Chowdhury as Chandon Chatterjee, Rani’s father
- Churni Ganguly as Anjali Chatterjee, Rani’s mother
- Aamir Bashir as Tijori Randhawa, Rocky’s father
- Kshitee Jog as Punam Randhawa, Rocky’s mother
- Anjali Anand as Gayatri “Golu” Randhawa, Rocky’s sister
- Namit Das as Somen Mitra
- Abhinav Sharma as Vicky, Rocky’s friend
- Kashish Rizwan as young Dhanlakshmi
- Harman Singha as young Kanwal Lund
- Veebha Anand as young Jamini
- Sheeba as Mona Sen
- Karmveer Choudhary as Vicky’s grandfather
- Arjun Bijlani as Harry
- Bharti Singh as Pushpa
- Haarsh Limbachiyaa
- Shraddha Arya as Rupa
- Sriti Jha as Jaya
- Arjit Taneja as Sunny
- Hitesh Arora as Gopal Rana
- Raashul Tandon as Yashpal Rana
- Navneet Nishan as Yashpal’s mother
- Vansh Sayani as Young Tijori Randhawa
- Jitendra Gaur as Ratan
- Benazir Shaikh as Minty, Vicky’s bride
- Varun Dhawan (cameo in song “Heart Throb”)
- Ananya Panday (cameo in song “Heart Throb”)
- Sara Ali Khan (cameo in song “Heart Throb”)
- Janhvi Kapoor (cameo in song “Heart Throb”)
The film was announced as Rocky Aur Rani Ki Prem Kahani on 6 July 2021, by director Karan Johar on his social media accounts. It was also announced that the principal cast would consist of Dharmendra, Jaya Bachchan, and Shabana Azmi, with Ranveer Singh and Alia Bhatt playing the titular roles. It marked Johar’s comeback to feature film direction after Ae Dil Hai Mushkil (2016). He decided to work on the film after his period drama Takht about the Mughal Empire, also co-starring Singh and Bhatt, could not start production due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Johar put together a writer’s room consisting of Ishita Moitra, Shashank Khaitan and Sumit Roy.
The film marked Bachchan’s acting comeback after over a decade; she had previously worked with Johar in Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham… (2001) and Kal Ho Naa Ho (2003). The octogenarian Dharmendra agreed to the project believing that the role “suit[ed] my age and image”; he was also pleased to reunite with both Bachchan and Azmi after many decades. Television actress Anjali Anand was cast in her first film role. Saswata Chatterjee was initially approached for the part of Chandon Chatterjee, but he turned down the offer and Tota Roy Chowdhury was cast instead. Chatterjee later called it “the biggest regret of my life”.
Johar has said that the inspiration for the film came to him during the pandemic, when he discovered several influencers on Instagram who were gym rats from West Delhi. He decided to base the character of Rocky on them. In preparation, Ranveer Singh spent time with influencer Yuvraj Dua, learning his dialect and mannerisms. The Randhawa household shown in the film was filmed at Gaursons India’s luxury residential complex Gaur Mulberry Mansions in Noida. For the character of Chandon Chatterjee, a Kathak dancer, Johar drew on his own experiences as a child who would dance effeminately. To prepare, Roy Chowdhury trained in Kathak for six months. Singh too trained for over a month, for the “Dola Re Dola” dance sequence that he performed with Chowdhury. Vaibhavi Merchant choreographed the sequence, and has said that Singh was extremely nervous to film it as he was not a trained classical dancer.
Principal photography commenced on 20 August 2021. The first schedule took place in Mumbai. In October 2021, the second schedule commenced in Delhi. The next schedule was scheduled for early 2022, but it was delayed due to the Omicron variant spreading. Finally, the third schedule kicked off in April 2022 near Mumbai and Delhi. In August 2022, it was announced that television actors Arjun Bijlani, Shraddha Arya, Sriti Jha, and Arjit Taneja had filmed a small sequence for the film. In the same month, Dharma Productions released a video announcing the film’s wrap except for a song, whose shoot was delayed due to Bhatt’s pregnancy. The song, “Tum Kya Mile”, was filmed in March 2023 in Jammu & Kashmir, thus wrapping the film. Johar has said that the “Tum Kya Mile” sequence was inspired by the romantic songs in Yash Chopra’s films while the “Dhindora Baje Re” sequence was inspired by the scale and grandeur of Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s films. He also paid tribute to actress Sadhana with the song “What Jhumka?”, adapted from her song “Jhumka Gira Re” in the film Mera Saaya (1966).
The first cut of the film was 3 hours and 12 minutes long. Johar held several test screenings for the film for over 500 people, and after an editing process of over six months with editor Nitin Baid, the final cut was brought down to 2 hours and 48 minutes.
The music of the film is composed by Pritam and lyrics are written by Amitabh Bhattacharya. Pritam described the album as a “homage” to Hindi film music of the 1960s and 1970s. Saregama bought the music rights for ₹30 crore (US$3.8 million). Johar termed it both a strategic and emotional decision, as Saregama (then-named HMV) had released the music for his company Dharma Production’s early films Gumrah (1993) and Duplicate (1998). The sale also allowed Johar to use Saragema’s catalogue of old Hindi film music without buying additional rights.
The first single, titled “Tum Kya Mile” was released on 28 June 2023. The second single, “What Jhumka?”, adapted from Madan Mohan’s 1966 song “Jhumka Gira Re”, was released on 12 July. The third single, titled “Ve Kamleya” was released on 18 July, and the fourth single, titled “Dhindhora Baje Re”, was released on 24 July.
The entire album, consisting of 13 tracks, was released on 31 July 2023.
On the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, Rocky Aur Rani Kii Prem Kahaani has an approval rating of 88% from 16 reviews, with an average score of 6.8/10.
Anupama Chopra described the film as “delicious eye-candy with a rebellious core”, and praised the performances of the ensemble cast. Mayank Shekhar deemed it “a top of the pop-culture moment” and particularly praised Ranveer Singh’s performance, adding that he “owns this role like nothing short of an inimitable rock-star”. Taran Adarsh of Bollywood Hungama found it a “well-packaged entertainer that has ample merits to strike a chord with the youth as well as families”. Tushar Joshi of India Today termed it a gentle reminder of Karan’s legacy. Dhaval Roy of The Times of India wrote that it is “a full-on entertaining and sweet love story, with flashy and feisty characters given to us in a well-wrapped shiny package”. The Telegraph’s Priyanka Roy labelled it a return to form for Johar, terming it a “vastly entertaining film which doesn’t forget to be meaty and meaningful”. Sukanya Verma of Rediff.com termed it a “shrewd subversion of traditions and values by the same man who popularised and glamorised its virtues to the hilt”. Her colleague, Mayur Sanap, believed that the film “blends old charm with the newness of fresh ideas”. Reya Malhotra of The Week termed it a feminist retelling of Johar’s own Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham… (2001).
WION’s Shomini Sen credited both Singh and Alia Bhatt for “salvag[ing] a predictable script credibly”. Mint Lounge’s Uday Bhatia too credited Singh’s charm and energy for making the film “more fun than it has a right to be”. Conversely, Shubhra Gupta of The Indian Express dismissed it as a “loud and melodramatic film” with “a lot of emotions, but little originality”. Nandini Ramnath of Scroll.in found it “ostentatious” and “pretentious”, and criticised its “overly long, tonally jittery, and stereotype-filled narrative”. NDTV’s Saibal Chatterjee concluded that “the film is a shiny but shallow family drama that uses disappointingly obsolete methods to serve up contemporary, pertinent theories about the need to be mindful in love, loyalty and language”; however, he praised the performances, particularly that of Bhatt.
Internationally, Ryan Gilbey of The Guardian opined that “Rocky Aur Rani Kii Prem Kahaani is fascinating in its attempts to address the clash between progressiveness and tradition”. IndieWire’s Proma Khosla termed it “the kind of Bollywood bliss audiences have been craving”, and praised the performances of the “genuinely talented actors”, particularly Singh, Bhatt, and Bachchan.
Rocky Aur Rani Kii Prem Kahaani has grossed ₹182.86 crore (US$23 million) in India, with a further ₹172.75 crore (US$22 million) in overseas, for a worldwide total of ₹355.61 crore (US$45 million). It emerged as a commercial success, ranking as the fourth highest-grossing Hindi film of the year.
The film had a fair first day at the box office, earning around ₹11 crore (US$1.4 million) nett. It showed good growth on Saturday, netting ₹15.5 crore (US$1.9 million). Over the weekend, the film netted a total of ₹44.5 crore (US$5.6 million). It performed particularly well in the overseas markets of North America and Canada, United Kingdom, Gulf, and Australia, grossing US$4 million over its first weekend. In the UK, it had the second-biggest opening for a Hindi film in 2023, after Pathaan; it ranked seventh over the weekend, grossing £370,882. On Monday, the film had a strong hold both domestically, netting ₹6.75 crore (US$850,000), and in overseas, grossing US$ $770,000. It showed no drop in domestic collections on Tuesday. Over the first week, the film performed best in the overseas markets and in the urban multiplexes of India.
In its second weekend, the film had a very strong hold, dropping 30% domestically, netting ₹31 crore (US$3.9 million). In North America, it dropped less than 5%, grossing US$1.64 million for a total of US$4.72 million. In all other overseas markets, the drop was just 20%. It continued to perform well in its third weekend, despite strong competition from new releases Gadar 2 and OMG 2. Grossing over US$15 million internationally by its third week, it emerged as one of the highest-grossing Hindi films in overseas.
Rocky Aur Rani Kii Prem Kahaani was initially scheduled to release on 10 February 2023 and then on 28 April 2023, but was postponed due to shooting delays arising from Bhatt’s pregnancy. It was eventually released theatrically on 28 July 2023. The film was selected to be screened at the 28th Busan International Film Festival on 9 October 2023 in their “Open Cinema” section.
The streaming rights for the film were sold to Amazon Prime Video for ₹80 crore (US$10 million) and the television broadcasting rights were sold to Colors TV for ₹30 crore (US$3.8 million).
The first teaser of the film was launched by actor Shah Rukh Khan, a frequent collaborator of Johar, on 20 June 2023. The film’s official trailer was released on 4 July 2023. To promote the film, Bhatt and Singh embarked on a five-city tour of India, including Kolkata, Chandigarh and Jaipur. The Central Board of Film Certification demanded a few modifications before release, including changes to profanity and removing a reference to politician Mamata Banerjee. Bhatt insisted that the changes were minor, and that it would not hamper the flow of the film.
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