During the closing credits for Soundtrack, a note onscreen reads: “Inspired by the movie It’s All Gone Pete Tong.” Reading the plot summary for It’s All Gone Pete Tong at Wikipedia reveals that Soundtrack is more of a beat-for-beat imitation.
When a book is turned into a film, the credits typically read “Based on a novel by…”, thereby acknowledging that someone else deserves credit for writing the original story. I’m not suggesting that there’s anything nefarious in Soundtrack‘s appropriation of another movie’s plot, but there’s something unsavory about acknowledging it in such an offhand way.
The good thing about writer-director Neerav Ghosh basing Soundtrack on a previously successful movie is that he has a solid structure to work with. As a result, Soundtrack is watchable. It’s reasonably well-paced, and plot points occur when we instinctively want them to occur.
Where Soundtrack falls short is in the construction of the main character, Raunak Kaul (Rajeev Khandelwal). Raunak is a DJ who moves to Mumbai hoping to strike it rich. He quickly does, thanks to his uncle’s contacts at a popular nightclub. Soon, Raunak is up to his eyeballs in booze, drugs and women eager to sleep with him.
After a period of debauchery, a combination of lifestyle factors and genetics causes Raunak to go completely deaf. He breaks down, only to gain a new purpose in life, with the help of his lip-reading instructor, Gauri (Soha Ali Khan).
Soundtrack‘s effectiveness depends entirely upon the degree to which the audience sympathizes with Raunak, and there’s little reason to care about him. He’s an angry ingrate who’s already an alcoholic before he gets to Mumbai. He gets the life of sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll that he wants and enjoys it while he’s able, even though his addictions make him unreliable.
It’s hard to feel bad for a character who is both unlikable and the cause of his own problems. Ghosh never gives Raunak his “save the cat” moment: an action that lets the audience know that the character is really a good guy, in spite of appearances.
Gauri’s character is also underdeveloped. She serves as a plot device to get Raunak back on the right moral track. Her character is supposed to have been born deaf, but she merely speaks with a lisp, not the way those born deaf actually talk. It’s a missed opportunity to add realism to her character.