These two lovebirds don't know it yet.
First of all, hooray for another film this year taking its title from an old Shashi Kapoor favorite! What's ironic is that Jaane tu ya jaane na was a fairly typical romantic filmi song - that is, the boy (Shashi Kapoor) was smitten and pursued the girl (Sharmila Tagore) until she gave in - whereas the film Jaane Tu... Ya Jaane Na (Whether you know it... or not, or JTYJN) tries very hard to break away from this tradition and instead present a new type of Hindi film romance. Rather than relying on lightning bolts, instant infatuations and eternal dedication, JTYJN show us love that is often blurry and indistinct. Rather than a seven-lifetime guarantee, it's a series of ambiguous choices and vague, mutable feelings. Love doesn't happen to the characters in this film, they (sometimes, messily) happen to love.
Generally, the film succeeds, and so it's a breath of fresh air to the seasoned masala veteran (not that we don't unambiguously, lightning bolt-style love masala and remain eternally dedicated to it). The performances are, on the whole, aiming for natural, low-key charisma. No one is secretly related (what?!), there are no cackling villains and the only brother-sister duo is really... normal. Like, they bicker a lot (the brother at one point calling his sister a "stupid, stupid cow!"). This film had great pedigree - financially backed by the thinking man's favorite, Aamir Khan, with music by the genius A.R. Rahman - and we had been listening to enthusiastic endorsements from all our filmi-inclined friends ever since its release earlier this year. So does it deliver? Overall, yes.
Girls jamming on the guitar! Yeah, movie!
An excellent and quirky cameo by Naseeruddin Shah. We love it when the the Shahs play husband-wife in offbeat romantic comedies!
The story centers around a tight-knit group of college friends. Our hero is the sensitive, pacifist Jai (newcomer Imran Khan, nephew of Aamir). His best friend is the turbulent Aditi (Genelia D'Souza). Jai and Aditi are inseparable, and have been for the entire five-year college course, so naturally everyone assumes they're together. However, when Aditi's parents (Anuradha Patel and Jayant Kripalani, who we kept mistaking for Kader Khan) suggest marriage, the two kids recoil in shock. Marry my best friend?! No way! Just to prove how completely not-in-love they are, both attempt to find a perfect match for the other. Jai speedily runs into Meghna (Manjari Phadnis), and sparks fly. A bruised Aditi meanwhile rushes into a relationship with parental-approved Sushant (Ayaz Khan), whose nastiness is revealed layer by creepy layer.
The main theme of the movie seems to be "love is what you make it" - that is, it's not the sure-fire thing often portrayed in movies, but rather is something that is hard to pin down and hard to navigate. Just as Chori Chori satirized marriage, JTYJN satirizes love with the same half-cynical, half-affectionate air. Most of the relationships in the film are less-than-perfect. The happiest couple in the film - the geeky Rotlu (Karan Makhija) and Sandhya (Alishka Varde) - were both jonesing for someone else, got together on a whim, and found that they enjoyed each other's company much more. The "other girl" and "other boy" - Meghna and Sushant - are shown as imperfectly in love as well. That is, Meghna is willingly blind to the mutually abusive relationship between her parents (a surprise cameo by Rajat Kapoor playing the creepy alcoholic very well, and who was the mom?). Meanwhile Sushant is slowly revealed to be a possessive Lothario whose heart (and loins) is still pulled in many contradictory directions.
OMG Raj Babbar and Smita Patil's son!!!! Prateik Babbar!!!!!
This slightly tongue-in-cheek vibe is reinforced by the moments of self-conscious and humorous cliché: Jai mounting a white steed to chase down his beloved, the final climax in an airport. Because these clichés are portrayed with grace and wit (the subplot about how Jai gets on that horse is sweetly silly), we laughed and sighed instead of groaning. Indeed, throughout the film there were moments when we found ourselves a little choked up with tears and laughter - it was really quite affecting! For example, a running subplot (that involves the horse too) centers around Jai's late father, Amar Singh Rathore (a wonderful cameo by Naseeruddin Shah), who proclaims from beyond the grave and a Harry Potter-esque talking portrait that his son must grow up to be a macho mard, pride of Rajasthan. Jai's exasperated mother (Ratna Pathak, Naseer's wife) instead fights to keep Jai on a "Gandhi-Buddha" path of pacifism and sensitivity. A poignant and funny scene occurs when Jai, upset about the tortuous love quadrangles, cries on his mother's shoulder (see, boys can get hurt in love too, world!). She coos maternally ("Let it out, son!") while the painted father rolls his eyes in disappointment. There were other sweet, funny grace notes which fleshed out the film's appeal - we won't give any away, but the officer trying to describe "the terrorist's meowing" on the walkie talkie was priceless.
A very silly, nice moment. And a great shot.
We're very much looking forward to more work from all the performers - well, okay, we're a little wary of Imran Khan's follow-up Kidnap - and we're especially impressed with Abbas Tyrewala, who directed and wrote the film. Some of those shots were amazing! And vah! Kya dialogues thi! Overall, this was a fun, charming movie. We recommend it - especially for showing to Bollywood virginal friends, as its appeal requires no previous masala experience. And Mr. Tyrewala sir: more, please!
That man's sign reads "Mr. Godot". GET IT?!!