When Aamir Khan throws a party, everyone in showbiz attends. And if the last few weeks in the industry have been one big celebration hosted by AK, the audience has just joined in. Jaane Tu … Ya Jaane is a low key, highly publicized film, if such a paradox can exist in Bollywood. The promos merely hinted at a light, college romance with a tinge of comedy and with no reference to any conflict. So when you sink into the lurid red, cushioned, multiplex seat, you have no idea what to expect. You look forward to comparing Imran with Aamir and watching the couple of AR Rahman songs that’ve been swimming in your head. The odd spectator may even be curious about Abbas Tyrewala’s foray into filmmaking. And that’s about it. For all the media splash and crazy PR, Jaane Tu …, to its credit, hasn’t put the weight of the world on its shoulders. Maybe it’s the fact that it’s a low budget film (considering the competition) or that the promos never really made any tall claims - once the film begins, you’re not in the mood to judge the plot, characters or filmmaking technique. You’re happy to inhabit the world that’s set up for you and thankfully, the film leads you gently through its melee of characters, situations and yes, horses.
Jai (Imran Khan) and Aditi (Genelia) have been best pals right through college despite, or probably, because of, their contrasting personalities. Jai, raised by his mother Savitri (Ratna Pathak Shah), is a proponent of non-violence and prefers to wiggle out of sticky situations using wit. Aditi is quick to pick a fight and mocks Jai’s pacifist ways – her dream man is one who’ll fight to protect her honour. Jai’s mother’s raised him on values that are a far cry from his Rajput father’s – the latter lost his life settling scores with enemies. Savitri’s falsely led her son to believe that her father (Naseeruddin Shah, the quintessential ‘Rathod from Ranjhod’. He lies framed on the wall, but comes alive when talking to his wife) was an ‘ahinsak’ man who never hurt a fly.
As college comes to a close, Aditi’s parents automatically assume that their daughter wants to marry Jai and invite him over to fix a date. It’s then that the couple realize that they’ve given everyone the (to their minds) wrong impression that they’re in love. They decide to help each other find the perfect match. Enter Meghna (Manjiri) the petite, dreamy girl who weaves fantasies out of everyday things – she charms Jai with her ‘What If” game in which ordinary objects transform into magical beings with a wave of her hand. Jai soon realizes that all’s not well with Meghna whose escape into fantasy is largely the result of the troubled relationship that her parents share.
Aditi, in the meanwhile, is engaged to Sushant (Ayaz Khan), the playboy with a penchant for violence and jealousy. It’s not long before Jai and Aditi realize they’re in fact in love with one another, but not before Sushant smacks Aditi in a parking lot. Aditi decides to leave for New York for a filmmaking course resigning herself to the fact that Jai is not in love with her. Jai, however, cannot let this assault on Aditi pass and heads straight to Sushant’s house and knocks him out, gets arrested and escapes from prison on a horse – in one fell swoop fulfilling all three conditions that go into the making of a ‘Rathod from Ranjhod’. The rest is an improbable airport climax which nonetheless has you hooked on with the newly empowered hero risking life, limb and reputation to reach the girl.
What helps the film are the various little characters on the way – most notably, Pratiek Babbar – Aditi’s brooding brother who’s lost in his world of art and music (when he’s not playing with his pet rat). He never has a good word to say about Jai – but that’s largely to drive his sister mad. It’s he who points out to Aditi that the man she plans to marry is an arrogant jerk. Pratiek, with his unkempt, long hair, t-shirt speckled with dried paint, pierced ears and wistful look is a character that is seldom seen in the realm of Hindi films. Partiek promises to bring to the screen that intense, piercing quality that made his mother, Smita Patil, one of cinema’s most powerful actresses.
Arbaaz and Sohail Khan, as Baloo and Bagheera, excel as the Rajput cowboys who frequent the city’s nightspots on their horses, trying their best to get arrested (to fulfill one of the three Rathod conditions) despite their political contacts.
Paresh Rawal pitches in with a useful little performance as Inspector Waghmare who’s the bane of Savitri’s existence. Ratna Pathak, in turn, does justice to her role of the conscientious and well read mother who’s more of a friend than an authoritative figure in her son’s life. The various sets of parents in the film also add to the general sense of familiarity that the film evokes.
What really doesn’t work for the film is the frame story – that of the group of friends waiting at the airport for Jai and Aditi to return from their honeymoon. The story of the couple is narrated by them to a new entrant to the group, Mala (Renuka Kunzru), and the film cuts back to Mala’s reactions intermittently. Not only is this device unnecessary, it also takes away from the pace and overall mood of the film.
Abbas Tyrewala’s done a great job of working within the constraints of the genre and budget to come out with the ultimate, clichéd college romance of our times which keeps the audience interested right through. As writer, director and lyricist, he’s understood his material brilliantly and not deviated from his own brief ever. The music score is dominated by ‘Kabhi Kabhi Aditi’ and ‘Pappu can’t dance’ while the rest of the tracks and background score are unobtrusive and appropriate. The cinematography by Manoj Lobo, again, doesn’t draw attention to itself, which is quite a compliment. The few portions where Imran and Genelia are captured on handycam are memorable – the film could perhaps have done with more stuff of the sort.
Jaane Tu … proves that no amount of innovation and gimmickry can substitute a simple, yet, strong storyline and well developed characters. To Imran and Genelia’s credit, you genuinely feel for their characters, despite their obvious shortcomings. Also, though the film’s undoubtedly a launch pad for Imran, he never really ‘steals the show’ with his heroics. In stead, he woos you unexpectedly with his sense of gravity leavened by easy charm.