"Rocket Singh -Salesman of the Year" is a deceptively titled gem. I call the title deceptive because it gives the impression of a laugh riot, a sort of comic fairy tale where the hero achieves success despite, or rather because of, his naivete and simplicity. There are sequences that evoke laughter, no doubt, but they hit you hard instead of tickling you. I feel compelled to commit the blasphemy of comparing director Shimit Amin with the likes of Hrishikesh Mukherjee and Basu Chatterjee. These maestros of yore had helped Hindi cinema beautifully bridge the gap between entertainment and realism. In his own way, with ample help from scriptwriter Jaideep Sahni, Amin reminds us of the giants of the 1970s and 1980s by telling a story wherein the Indian middle class makes an authentic comeback. It is ironical that the middle class, despite being the target audience, has rarely been portrayed realistically in movies of the recent past. Amin and Sahni, who had earlier collaborated to come out with the unconventional "Chak De India", have this time performed the miracle of portraying mundane characters and events with a remarkable freshness. They deserve praise for showing the courage to have as their protagonist a sardar, who is totally at variance with all the stereotypes of this community. He is neither a macho patriot, nor a buffoon mechanic or taxi driver nor a dimwit head of a family whose members seem to be competing with him in terms of stupidity. Harpreet Singh Bedi is a quintessential boy-next-door with ambitions and concerns all of us can relate to. He is gifted with no exceptional talents, but is, nevertheless, a man of courage and persistence and also a strong sense of ethics. Through his eyes, we get to see the corruption and depravity that pervades the corporate world, a worrying reality of our times, which has not found as much expression in our films as the other great social malady - political corruption. We get to see the ugly side of the much-extolled corporate ethics, which believes that end justifies the means. The end here refers to maximising profit and means range from bribery to jobbery. The distraught young man tries to blow the whistle and to his horror discovers that it was nothing short of a cardinal sin in the eyes of his employers. The distraught sardar is asked by his friends to change the job as he was too nice for the evil system. However, he displays a heroic resilience and refuses to give up. Realising that the evil was widespread and that mere change of job need not necessarily bring the elusive happiness to his life, he looks deep within and also takes a hard look at his surroundings. This makes him realise that even amidst the all-pervading cynicism, people do crave for sincerity, honesty and trustworthiness. He also gets to understand that the brutality of the system was in no small measure responsible for the unscrupulousness in their nature.
Armed with these two modern day noble truths, he ventures out to float a company of his own (surreptitiously, without resigning from his organisation). By virtue of the human touch reflective of the founder's own personality, "Rocket Sales Corp" starts giving the company, where all the turbaned gentleman and his companions continue to work, a run for its money. Their boss Puri, a ruthless and cunning go-getter, becomes desperate to finish off this unlikely rival. He finally gets on to find out what has been going right under his nose and blackmails Bedi into selling the company to him, with the promise that he himself and more importantly his supportive, yet hapless colleagues would be spared from legal action. However, Puri finds that his own cynical business acumen may have helped him take over Rocket Sales Corp., but the clients of this fancy-free company are not impressed as they keep complaining that the brand name may have remained but the character has been lost. Puri tries to trick Bedi to return to his company, but the young man does not fall into his trap and tells him that for him "business is about people and not merely profit". Puri concedes defeat and walks away but not without giving Rocket Sales Corp back to its creator. Thereafter, Bedi is shown making a new beginning, of course with the help of his colleagues whom he had helped reclaim their dignity and self-respect. Verbal description can hardly do justice to this gem of a movie which is marked by a great eye for details and very well etched out characters. This is of course, in addition to a brilliant script, fine direction and convincing performances from all the artistes who do full justice to their roles no matter how much footage they may have been given. The movie deserves to be watched by all, not just connoisseurs, as it convincingly shows that honesty and dignity are as relevant to our times as they were ever before.