The spirit of youthful ebullience irrigates debutant director Arindam Chaudhuri's homage to the urbane romanticism of Yash Chopra.
Though Chaudhuri pays a special thanks to Chopra in the opening credits, it's really Mansoor Ali Khan whom the director should thank.
In theme and spirit "Rok Sako To Rok Lo" comes closest to Khan's "Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar". Almost every character except Sunny Deol and Namrata Shirodkar, seems to echo the earlier film.
While "Jo Jeeta..." was mellower and smoother, "Rok Sako...." is rougher at the fringes, more aggressive. It tries hard to please, and it pleads its case until the narrative bleeds.
Much too long and cumbersome there are nevertheless enough sparks in the presentation to make you want to stay on till the end when, mimicking the cycle race in the earlier film, our callow hero Dev (Yash Thakur) and his snobbish adversary Ranveer (Carran Kapur) participate in an action-packed marathon race which could do with a better pace.
The narrative pace lacks grace. Editor Rabi Ranjan Maitra needed to use the scissors far more seriously on the material. The uninspired songs (composers Jatin-Lalit doing a pale shade of Yash Chopra's music) slacken the pace dangerously until we're left looking at a campus romance that tries to cram every subject on the curriculum, and ends up being a master of none.
Not only is the lead pair given a family life (indulgent papa, whining mother, doting bhabhi, disapproving bhaiyya, etc) we even get to visit the protagonists' pals home... South Indians, Bengalis, Punjabis..... They are all brought in to the purview of the plot.
Stripped of all the homage humbug "Rok Sako..." has a tender dewy heart, rendered refreshing by the fresh-faced newcomers all a tad too eager to 'act'.
Unlike that other far more appealing debutante Sammir Dattani in "Uff....Kya Jadoo Mohabbat Hai", Yash Thakur playing the middleclass highflying student from the bourgeois school, expresses love-related emotions as though his life depended on the expression rather than the emotion itself.
Wish the director had exercised more control over the newcomers' natural tendency to over-express themselves. Left to themselves they whip up a zest that knows no rest. Santosh Thundiyil's camera catches them as they fly, and never quite allows them to touch ground.
The youngsters look more like imitations of their real-life counterparts from the metropolitan colleges than the real things. Sunny Deol as their godfather (or 'phantom' as they choose to call him) is just about passable.
It's up to the ever-lovely Namrata Shirodkar to prove the saviour among the performers. Playing the café owner and narrator she brings an aura of serene splendour to her personality. Not for the first time, we wonder why she's so under-used.
What redeems the film's drooping derivative spirit are the bright patches of interactive dialogues. When the protagonist-students altercate with the snobs from another school, they bring with them an energetic social comment on the class distinctions that decide an individual's future from his or birth, and how owning posh cars or dating pricey girls don't translate into a successful life.
Sadly, the film's basic tenor is too flighty to hold up such lofty ideas. Thoughts that go beyond eye candy entertainment float in and out of the narrative without getting a chance to lodge themselves in the plot.
You wish the film's visible resources could've been put to better use. You wish the film's jaunty young vibrant mood could've been substantiated by a stronger pitch at the angst of being young.
The youngsters in "Rok Sako..." seem to be filled with a fey anguish that leaves us more amused than involved.