A large crowd gathers outside the Verona Arena in Italy, with eager fans queuing to watch the performance of Jordan (Ranbir Kapoor), a rock musician. Despite being mobbed, Jordan manages to escape and reach the arena. He shows a complete disregard for his fans, storms onto the stage in a fit of rage and starts strumming angrily on his guitar.
A flashback reveals the story of Jordan, whose real name is Janardhan Jhakar a.k.a. JJ, a simple Jat boy, from Delhi. He is a student at Hindu College who dreams of becoming an international star, and this dream is often laughed at by his friends and classmates. Khatana(Kumud Mishra), the canteen owner, tells JJ that the one thing is common among all artists, singers, painters, etc., is 'pain,' especially, via a heartbreak. JJ jokingly tells himself that since he hasn't yet seen bad times, he won't be able to reach his idol's (Jim Morrison) level of fame. JJ accidentally sees a beautiful girl rehearsing before a dancing contest called "Shut Up & Dance" when he and his friends go to venue, where the contest is about to start. He goes inside only to see this girl's performance, even though he initially refuses to go inside the auditorium. He watches the performance of Heer Kaul (Nargis Fakhri), a Kashmiri Pandit from St. Stephens College, and overhears that she is the "perfect heartbreaking machine". Since JJ wanted to succeed, and he remembers the word of Khatana telling him that pain, especially from heartbreak, is the way to become an artist, he decides to propose to Heer, but he suffers humiliation, which he deciphers as the perfect method for receiving the heart-break needed to achieve stardom. However, over time, JJ and Heer will become good friends, often going on fun, nasty, naughty, and spicy adventures together and sometimes engaging in behavior which the conservative JJ thinks is risky.
Heer becomes engaged to Jai (Moufid Aziz) and ultimately marries him in Kashmir, after which the couple depart to Prague. During this time, she develops emotional feelings for JJ and coins the nickname "Jordan" for him before leaving. JJ returns home, finds himself thrown out by his brothers for attending Heer’s wedding and allegedly stealing ₹5,00,000 - something which he did not do. He takes refuge for two months in the nearby Nizamuddin Dargah, singing qawwalis, and then moves into Khatana's home asking for shelter.
Ustad Jameel Khan (Shammi Kapoor), a Padma Bhushan classical artist, remembers JJ singing at the Dargah, and prompts Dhingra, (Piyush Mishra), the owner of "Platinum Records", to sign JJ, since he guesses JJ will become and a star and all will earn a lot of money. Sheena (Aditi Rao Hydari), a journalist, interviews JJ and hints to him that Dhingra is planning to send some artists to a Europe tour for recordings. JJ instantly volunteers to work there at any cost (by signing some contracts with Dhingra), in the hopes of reuniting with Heer. During this time, JJ is slowly gaining fame and transforming his public persona into 'Jordan'.
Heer, meanwhile, suffers from continuous spurts of health problems. She meets JJ in Prague and they reconnect, but when he tries to profess his love for her, Heer, being married, spurns his advances.But slowly their relationship gets physical. This makes heer feel that she is not doing right as she is married. As soon as Jordans tours in Prague has finished Heer tells him that everything between them is over and leaves him.JJ tries to visit Heer one last time before he departs to India, but in doing so, he is arrested for trespassing on her property. After JJ gets arrested for the same, Heer then suddenly collapses. Upon being deported back to India, JJ is overwhelmed by the attention he receives, and he clashes with the media and the Indian Police out of frustration, resulting in a term in jail. Dhingra becomes happy about the publicity he has received because of JJ, and guesses that this is the right time to release JJ's recordings and names that album "Jordan Negative Deported," with a front cover that shows JJ being put behind bars, and as predicted, the album sales soar, which further popularizes JJ.
After being released, JJ terminates his contract with Dhingra's company, embarks on a country-wide tour for his concerts and finally morphs fully into 'Jordan' - the true rockstar, which he had always wanted to be. He turns into a bitter, arrogant, and lonely man after finding that the fame does not fill the void in his life. Khatana is now his manager, but fails to control him, and Jordan is constantly involved in fights with the media and fans. Inspite of all this, he remains a highly popular artist.
Jordan meets Heer's younger sister, Mandy (Sanjana Sanghi), during one of his performances, and she asks him to help Heer - who has been diagnosed with Aplastic Anemia. Although he is initially asked to leave by Heer's mother Neena (Shernaz Patel), Jordan's presence causes Heer to recover somewhat. He starts disregarding his musical obligations as he spends more time with Heer, and soon Khatana asks Heer to persuade Jordan to attend his concerts. Heer accompanies him to a show, and the media links them as a couple, portraying her as having an affair despite being married. Heer asks Jordan to complete his tour and reunite with her once again. After JJ finishes his performances, both will have some intimate time. During this time, her condition worsens. She slowly slips into a coma and is discovered by their doctor to be pregnant; Neena and Mandy guess it is because of Jordan. Mandy calls him and tells that Heer is pregnant but has gone into a coma. Jordon leaves another show right in the middle as he has done many times in the past and reaches ICU. He tries to wake her up by saying his usual funny dialogues when they meet; however, Jordan realizes that she will not survive, because she does not respond to any of his words nor emotional touches and kisses. Heer dies, and Mandy shouts to JJ that you are responsible for Heer going into coma. Jordan goes through intense emotion of anger, depression, and heartbreak. All this fuel his music in his future performances, and he becomes an international superstar, reaching the heights of his idol, Jim Morrison.
Back in the Verona Arena, Jordan starts the concert in an angry, apathetic manner. While performing, Jordan sees a vision of Heer walking towards him, smiling lovingly. The audience cheers on, despite his tears and oblivious to his anguish. A montage of all the happy times the couple spent together plays, ending with a line from Mawlana Jalal-ud-Din Rumi's poem: "Away, beyond all concepts of wrong-doing and right-doing, there is a field. I'll meet you there".Ranbir Kapoor as Janardhan "Jordan" Jakhar / JJ
Nargis Fakhri as Heer Kaul (Mona Ghosh Shetty as the dubbing voice)
Aditi Rao Hydari as Sheena
Kumud Mishra as Khatana
Piyush Mishra as Dhingra
Moufid Aziz as Jai
Shammi Kapoor as Ustad Jameel Khan
Shernaz Patel as Neena Kaul
Jaideep Ahlawat as Jordan's brother
Shreya Narayan as Jordan's sister-in-law
Nizami Bandhu- as Qawwal from Nizamuddin Auliya Dargah
Sharad Sharma as Virat Kaul - Heer's Father
Sanjana Sanghi as Mandy Kaul - Heer's Younger Sister
The male lead of Rockstar is played by Ranbir Kapoor, with whom Eros International worked previously on Anjaana Anjaani. His role of Jordan is loosely based on Imtiaz Ali's Jat friend, who lived in a small settlement in Pitam Pura. He had seen Kareena Kapoor's performance in his Jab We Met and wanted to cast her in the film. However, the script required some romantic scenes between the leads. As Ranbir and Kareena happened to be cousins, this was touted as a problem. Moreover, the filmmakers did not want to replace Ranbir with any other actor as the character he portrayed was reportedly suitable only for him. They then made a joint decision to replace Kapoor with Nargis Fakhri, after initially approaching Sonam Kapoor and Diana Penty for the replacement. Voice actor Mona Ghosh Shetty dubbed for Fakhri. The film marked Shammi Kapoor's last appearance in a feature film; he died on 14 August 2011.
The shooting for Rockstar began in May 2010. A major part of the shooting took place in Kashmir at Kulgam, Kupwara and Srinagar, while the last phase was shot in Delhi at places like the Kotla Mubarakpur, Nizamuddin Dargah, Greater Kailash, Munirka, Indira Gandhi International Airport, Amity School (deleted scenes), Connaught Place, Shri Ram College of Commerce, BL Kapoor Hospital, Rajendra Nagar, St. Stephen's College and the Hindu College, which was Imtiaz Ali's alma mater. Foreign sequences were shot at Wenceslas Square, Charles Bridge and the Old Town in parts of Prague and at Dr. Beneš Square in Liberec. The film was shot in reverse as the crew didn't want to break the continuity of Ranbir's hairstyle. The climax with long hair was shot first. Kapoor had to transform himself into a rockstar: he practised guitar at A. R. Rahman's studio in Chennai for many days, read Kurt Cobain's biography and familiarised himself with Jats.
Rockstar's costumes were designed by Aki Narula and Manish Malhotra, who dressed Ranbir in "small-town denim-and-sweater combination and later, Pathani-style kurtas with arm bands", thus completing the rockstar look. Nargis Fakhri, who plays the role of a Kashmiri Pandit girl, wore a traditional Kashmiri Pandit wedding outfit in the wedding scene, which included Pandit Pheran, Dejhor (ear ornament) and Taranga (head cap worn underneath the veil). This also happens to be the first time in Bollywood that a Kashmiri Pandit wedding was shown.
The music for the film is scored by A. R. Rahman, who replaces Imtiaz Ali's regular song composer, Pritam. This also marks the first Imtiaz Ali film since his debut Socha Na Tha, to have the same composer for both film score and songs.
The soundtrack features 14 tracks, with all lyrics penned by Irshad Kamil. The recording of the album took place in Chennai, London and Mumbai. Mohit Chauhan had lent his voice for nine songs. The audio rights were bought by T-Series. Upon release on 30 September 2011, it received positive reviews from critics. "Sadda Haq" became the most popular song of the album and was named as a "youth anthem".
Rockstar released on 11 November 2011 and saw a good advance opening at multiplexes closer to educational institutions. The film released in 2,500 screens, and saw cinema halls running 14 to 15 shows in a day.
Major parts of the song "Sadda Haq" were shot at the Norbulingka monastery in McLeod Ganj, Dharamsala and people waving the free Tibet flag in the backdrop were shown in the song video. This triggered a dispute between Central Board of Film Certification and Imtiaz Ali when the Board asked Ali to blur the flag before the film hit the theatre, but the director refused to do it. Imtiaz Ali said, "I am not concerned at all. I have been out of India for long and don’t know whats going on, but I don’t see anything controversial in the intention portrayal in the movie. The purpose of the movie is not to make any social message, its more about personal freedom rather than a geographical issue." However, he had to remove the sequence from the video to get the film's censor done. Later an official from the Board stated: "The Censor Board chief explained to them that all the cuts were made by the director voluntarily, and he had the option of appealing to a review board which he didn’t do. There were certain discussions between (Imtiaz) Ali and the Board regarding retaining a kiss between two actors (Ranbir and Nargis), but there have been no disagreement regarding deleting the flag from the frames." The controversy sparked protests among the Tibetan diaspora in Dharamsala and Chennai. Later television broadcasts blotted out a "Free Tibet" banner featured in the song.
Raja Sen of Rediff gave the film 4 stars out of 5 and wrote, "Rockstar is a simple, unspectacular tale, sometimes even predictable, but director Imtiaz Ali masterfully weaves in details that draw us in." Aniruddha Guha of DNA too gave the film 4 out of 5 saying that the film was "like an effective crescendo that leaves you wanting more." Nikhat Kazmi of The Times of India also gave the film 4 out of 5 and stated that "The highpoint of Rockstar is it's high tension, high-on-passion romance between two unlikely people". Sukanya Verma of Rediff rated it 3.5 stars out of 5 and said, "Rockstar is flawed but fabulous." Mayank Shekhar of Hindustan Times also gave a rating of 3.5 out of 5 and noted "The canvas is wide like early Sanjay Leela Bhansali's; bird's view of the stunning bridge is very Mani Ratnam; witty, earthy dialogues are so Vishal Bhardwaj. Director Imitiaz Ali manages to retain a personal, auteur's touch in a genre vastly commercial, mainstream. This is a rare feat." Taran Adarsh of Bollywood Hungama gave the film 3 out of 5 stars, and said "On the whole, Rockstar does not live up to the confidence and expectations from the otherwise very skilled and accomplished film-maker Imtiaz Ali." Hrithik Sharma of El Viaje Reviews included it into his select list of Bollywood classics and says that "Rockstar is a unique cocktail of 50% drama, 40% romance and 10% comedy. What stands out is the music by A. R. Rahman. Each song in the film is a masterpiece and fits very well into the plot. Cinematography is realistic but prepossessing indeed. The film gets a 10 on 10 in this department. There are certain scenes in the film that may seem unrelated to the plot but those would be the scenes that would stay with you longer." Rajeev Masand of CNN-IBN also gave 3 stars out of 5, commenting "Imtiaz Ali's Rockstar is a far-from-perfect film, but it has honesty and depth, which is mostly missing in Hindi movies today."
Sumit Bhattacharya of Rediff gave a rating of 2.5 out of 5, saying that "Rockstar is what is called a one-time watch", and highlighted that the film "is more Devdas than Jim Morrison". Saibal Chatterjee of NDTV too gave the film 2.5 out of 5 stars, and said "Rockstar has a Sufi soul. If only it had been set free and allowed to go the whole hog!" Komal Nahta of Koimoi again gave the film 2.5 out of 5, and said, "Rockstar will meet with a mixed response: one section of the audience (mainly youngsters in the cities) will love it while another section (mainly the single-screen audience and public of smaller cities) will find it ordinary." Kaveree Bamzai of India Today gave the film 2 out of 5 stars and said "AR Rahman's music is the soul of the film. What is missing is the spine, leaving just a jelly in place." Yahoo! gave the film 1 star out of 5, and said "Rockstar drives home an unscientific hypothesis that people who’ve endured sufferings/heart break etc will reach their creative best." A reviewer from Reuters commented that Rahman and Ranbir are the stars of the film while saying "Rockstar works on so many levels, but it fails miserably on so many more.".
Upon release, Rockstar had a very good opening. The film opened to a good response at multiplexes with bookings averaging around 60–70%, and single screens witnessed a lower capacity at around 30–40%. It collected ₹100 million (US$1.6 million) nett on its opening day, thus becoming the second highest opener in a non-festival season after Ready. The good opening was attributed to the multiplexes across cities, the "star power" of Ranbir Kapoor as well as the youthful theme of the film. The film showed growth on Saturday by grossing ₹112.5 million (US$1.8 million) nett, therefore taking its two-day net total to ₹205 million (US$3.2 million). A similar growth was seen on Sunday, and hence the first weekend collection ended at ₹337.5 million (US$5.3 million) nett, the majority of which was collected from Mumbai, Pune, Delhi & Bangalore.
Rockstar opened well on Monday collecting around ₹57.5 million (US$900,000) nett, with 40% drop as compared to the first day collections, thus taking the four-day total to ₹390 million (US$6.1 million) nett. The film collection saw another noticeable fall on Tuesday as it collected around ₹42.5 million (US$660,000) nett, with five days collection totalling to ₹432.5 million (US$6.7 million) nett. At the end of first week, the film had a good collection by grossing ₹474.6 million (US$7.4 million) nett, though the film had found appreciation only with a small section of the audience. In the process, it was ranked ninth in the list of all-time first week domestic collections.
Rockstar grossed ₹25.0 million (US$390,000) nett on second Friday, with a 75% drop as compared to the first day. On Saturday, the film collected ₹32.5 million (US$510,000) nett, and ₹42.5 million (US$660,000) nett on Sunday, taking the second weekend collection totalled at ₹100 million (US$1.6 million), representing a 70% drop from its first weekend. As of ten days, the film had collected approximately ₹574.6 million (US$9.0 million) nett. Rockstar made ₹158.5 million (US$2.5 million) nett in the second week, declining by 67% and taking the two-week collection totalled at ₹633.1 million (US$9.9 million) nett. The film on week three managed to earn ₹29.6 million (US$460,000), and hence taking three weeks collections to ₹662.7 million (US$10 million). By the end of its fifth week, the film netted ₹674.9 million (US$11 million).
Rockstar managed to gross $1.65 million from all overseas markets and was termed as below the mark. The film collected £185,000 in the UK, $612,000 in North America, $370,000 in UAE and $100,000 in Australia.