Sunday, July 06, 2008

Jaane Tu.... Ya Jaane Na - Pure, Unadulterated Fun

"What kind of films do you like?" I'm asked this question a bit too often for my comfort. After all, I'm someone who likes the thematic vacuousness and in-your-face insouciance of Jhoom Barabar Jhoom just as much as the philosophical subtext of Mithya, the over-the-top melodrama of a Bhansali film as much as the let's-see-if-you-get-this arrogance in Anurag Kahsyap's No Smoking, the shameless emotional manipulation in a picture-perfect Karan Johar film as much as gritty, raw feel of, say, Vishal Bhardwaj's Omkara. So much so that people often feel that I have a very 'erratic' (read weird) taste in films.

How and why one ends up liking a particular film is never easy to enunciate, for there are so many different things at play at the sensory level that it is impossible for put a finger on one easily explainable reason. If I'm really forced to point one thing, I would say I end up liking films where I get what (or little more than what) I have been promised. In other words, a film that meets or exceeds my expectations. Yes, there's a school of thought that one should not go to a film with any pre-set expectations and then view it at an 'objective' level. But, objectivity is an over-rated virtue. How can one be truly objective when a film is supposed to talk to you at a very personal level? Anyway, this is a topic of another debate and I wouldn't dwell on it here.

What I want to do here is to talk about Abbas Tyrewala's Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na. So, what is my opinion on the film, did I like it? Oh yes, I loved it. For the simple reason that I got exactly what I had bargained for. I walked into the theatre expecting a stereotypical college rom-com with some instances of clever writing (given Abbas Tyrewala's reputation), and that's exactly what I got.

At the story/ plot level, Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na is indeed a stereotypical college romance. There's a boy and a girl, best of friends, but their relationship is purely at the platonic level. Everyone thinks they're a couple, but thoughts of love have never entered their minds. College over, boy and girl meet another girl and boy and try to forge relationships till they realize they're in love and return to each other. Add to that the horrendously clichéd airport climax.

But wait a minute. As I have observed earlier on this blog, films are not about one-line plot descriptions. Abbas Tyrewala proves that with some clever and inspired writing the most irritating clichés of Hindi films can be given a delicious zing. Add to that the effort that has clearly gone into providing flesh and depth to most of the characters, even the most peripheral and stereotypical one.

Take the character of Jai (Imran Khan in a confident and endearing debut) himself. The confrontation-avoiding, non-violent, non-hero character has hardly every been done this well on Hindi cinema. Jai Singh Rathore, despite being from a family of feuding Rajputs, is raised by his mother to stay away from confrontations of any kind. So the 'violent streak' is suppressed under layers and layers of false stories about his father that his mother keeps narrating to him. He remains a 'darpok' and 'fattu'. So if he comes face to face with situations that demand him to do something hero-like he would rather use brain than brawn. If a college mate calls him fattu, he would talk him out of the confrontation. If his best-friend's brother taunts him, he would just come out with a witty repartee and cool things down. And when the most hackneyed of all sequences meant to show heroism comes up – saving a damsel in distress from a seemingly lecherous duo – he thinks of a brilliant (almost bizarre) way of saving the girl. The cheesiness of the idea actually works big time for this scene. Great, inspired writing.

Next we have Jai's widowed mother, Savitri (Ratna Pathak Shah in the best supporting performance of the year so far). With a name like that, one would almost visualize a lady in white whose only occupation would be to stand in-front of her dead husband's portrait and say lines alternating between 'aaj tumhare papa zinda hote…." and "dekh rahe ho jai ke papa….", depending on who the lines were being spoken to. No, not Savitri Rathod. Of course, she has conversation with the dead father's portrait, but it's always a delightful, husband-wife banter. She lies to her son about his father. And when she is not playing the role of a mother she is a social activist always rubbing a certain Inspector Waghmare (Paresh Rawal) the wrong way.

Oh yes, we have Aditi (Genelia) too, but hers is just a stock character. Probably it was meant to be that way. There no added depth to her character. Genelia, however, lends an infectious charm which is difficult to forget. Her interactions with her brother, Amit, show glimpses of a very real, believable brother-sister relationships.

Talking of Amit (Pratiek Babbar), this was one character I developed the most affinity too. With the entire college crowd being portrayed as the happy go lucky kinds, he adds that element of angst that's missing from the film otherwise. He is a recluse, who has no qualms about being job-less, and finds solace in painting only for himself. He 'hates' Jai, but for a reason. His parents look at Jai and wonder why their son could not be like him, and he lost his only friend, his sister, to Jai. All this comes across in just a few scenes, but adds enormous depth to Amit's character. Again, Abbas Tyrewala the writer scores. I felt that for his first film, Pratiek was brilliant. May be it is his resemblance to his mother (I'm way too partial towards his mother, willing to forgive and forget even travesties like Badle Ki Aag), but he came across as someone who not only did justice to the way the character was written, but added another dimension just by his dead-pan, unkempt looks and unusual dialogue delivery.

It is fairly evident that a lot of thought went into the film at the script level. The comic sub-plots of Inspector Waghmare and the brother-duo-who-come-to-a-disco-on-a-horseback seem superfluous at first, probably meant just to extract a few hearty laughs, but later on one realizes how inextricably they're woven into the narrative.

The film is peopled with actors who display their best comic talents in a really long time. Naseeruddin Shah as the dead father in the portrait has unbridled fun, while Paresh Rawal reminds us that he is indeed one of the best in business when it comes to comedy, so what if he had lost his comic shine in the quagmire of un-funny films mostly by Priyadarshan. And the Khan brothers, they're a revelation!

Finally, the climax - the much dreaded airport climax. Right from the time the final act starts rolling with Jai's one chance of living up to his father's name and doing something 'heroic', till the referential final shot the sequence of events is madcap, crazy, completely bizarre but so darn funny that one is convinced that airport climaxes can be interesting too.

All through the film, the writer-director works primarily for the audience by giving them dozes of fun. But, he reserves the final shot for himself. It is a brilliantly self-indulgent shot that has 'do-you-get-it' written all over it. That's pure, unadulterated genius!