Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Jaane Tu...Ya Jaane Na, or, See? Aamir DOES Love Me!

"No expectations, no expectations," I chanted to myself as I slid Jaane Tu...Ya Jaane Na ("Whether You Know... Or You Don't") into the DVD player. I have learned through bitter experience that heightened expectations almost inevitably lead to disappointment when it comes to movies, and if there's one film that could raise my hopes from 2008, it's this one. "No expectations, no expectations..."

"Are you trying to sympathize with me?" droned my husband from his martyred sprawl on the couch next to me.

Thankfully, it turned out to be really good, the sort of good that gave me the tears and giggles I expect from a Hindi film, in addition to providing proof positive that Aamir Khan reads my blog in his copious spare time. Don't believe me? Check out this post. Yeah, that's what I thought.

(Okay, just in case it's not totally obvious, I'm completely kidding about that.)

Jai (Imran Khan, fan-freakin'-tastic in his debut role) is best friends with Aditi (Genelia, less bubbly than in Bommarillu but just as adorable). Cloyingly, his nickname is "Rats" while hers is "Meow," (shudder) but that and the constant kitty accessories in Aditi's wardrobe are the cutesiest parts of the plot, so I could deal. They, along with their gang (Karan Makhija, Nirav Mehta, Alishka Varde, and Sugandha Garg) are about to wrap up their college experience and head out into the "real world."

Jai is a non-fighter. I would say he's a pacifist, but his avoidance of conflict is less because of deep-seated personal conviction and more out of a guilt trip from his mom (Ratna Pathak Shah), who has lied to him about his dad, a Rajput who died fighting. In the words of one of the characters of the film, she's made her late husband (played by Naseeruddin Shah! yesssss) seem like a cross between "Gandhi-ji and Buddha-ji." She's a tireless advocate for those without power, and her intentions are good, but her stories end up emasculating Jai.

Aditi and Jai have been inseparable for all five years of college, so it's only natural that her parents propose a union between their families. Aditi and Jai, however, react with horror and disbelief. Marriage? To their best friends? Perish the thought! Love is... way more exciting than that! Right? The two decide to find the perfect mates for each other.

Eventually, Jai starts dating Meghna (adorable Manjari Phadnis) after a cute-meet at a club, and Aditi, disconsolate, finds seemingly perfect Sushant (Ayaz Khan) through the more conventional means of her parents. The two contort themselves into emotional pretzels while working out their story, and do the same to their audience despite our familiarity with the type of tale it is.

Yeah, you've heard (and seen) all this before, haven't you? Jaane Tu...Ya Jaane Na knows this. It's told within a narrative framework of the four other members of their group awaiting their return at the airport after the events of the film, telling their love story to a newcomer, so it's not like you don't know how the film will end even if you had any doubts going into the movie. (It's kind of fun how the storytelling breaks are shot with hand-held cameras, pseudo documentary style, while the main story is shot with more traditional methods.) It doesn't try to be any more than it is: a love story between two best friends who can't tell they belong together. But it does have some fun with its conventions along the way.

For me, it was the psychological truth behind those very conventions that led me to enjoy the movie rather than roll my eyes. It's a fact that in order to find the one you're meant to be with, you have to know who you yourself are (one of the first things I learned in a college course called Prep for Marriage, which--haha--I was required to take after having been married four years). Jai's believed what others have told him about himself without bothering to ask if what he's accepted as truth actually is. Aditi, on the other hand, has a pretty clear idea of who she is but hasn't bothered to figure out who the people in her life are when not taken in relation to herself. (Example: her brother (Prateik Babbar), whose relationship with her is very realistically portrayed.) They have some growing up to do before they're ready for any long-term relationships.

The performances are first-class, and I would be remiss if I didn't mention Kitu Gidwani (who American viewers probably would best remember from Deepa Mehta's Earth) and Rajat Kapoor (creepy uncle from Monsoon Wedding and awesome uncle from Dil Chahta Hai as well as an accomplished stage actor) in cameos as Meghna's parents. Oh my gosh. I kept peering through my fingers and moaning in discomfort during their scenes--it was that real. Ugh. But really, everyone does a stellar job. There's enough laughter balancing the post-adolescent sturm und drang to keep things from descending into melodrama, and I felt like I was listening in to real conversations most of the time. Yay for good dialogues!

The soundtrack is also dependable goodness, especially the first song, "Kabhi Kabhi Aditi," which I have on constant replay on YouTube. It was written by A.R. Rahman, so no surprise there.

Jaane Tu... Ya Jaane Na isn't anything new. But it is a solid entertainer, which in filmi year 2008 might have been a huge accomplishment in and of itself. Anyway, it got a "I really enjoyed that" out of my husband, which makes it one of four out of the forty Hindi movies I've forced him to sit through that actually earned that accolade. It's worth every penny.

16 comments:

  1. Agreed. Jaane Tu is fresh. I think Imran Khan made a fabulous debut. Genelia played her part perfectly and Prateik Babbar was good too. Music was brilliant again..did you like Pappu Can't Dance? lol! Fun track! One of my fav movies of 2008..and yeah I feel the reason Aditi's friends sing Kabhi Kabhi Aditi to her is really cute..her cat's death!

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  2. Yes! The scene with Meghna's parents was horrible and I died many times of sympathetic humiliation.

    This was a fun film - it seemed to be teasing a lot of standard filmi conventions from a slightly more Western style, but it did it with love.

    The songs, though - meehh. Of Rahman's 2008 stuff, I preferred Yuvvraaj (though I guess that's obvious to the internet by now).

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  3. I really enjoyed all the parents! They are what i rmemeber the most about it- the scene PPCC mentions, and also the fun exchanges between ratna and naseer- ;)

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  4. I'm so glad you liked it! I loved this one, too!:)Very true about the creepy uncle/awesome uncle thing on Rajat Kapoor....I always think of that dang Monsoon Wedding character every time I see him..I can't seem to shake it.

    I also loved Genelia and Imran, along with the entire supporting cast and the great dialouge. Which, as you put it, DID feel like you were listening in on real conversations.

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  5. I like this movie and obviously, it was full on expectations. And Naseruddin Shah's role was very funny - I love every of the line he said. Genelia was damn cute. The starting scenes were boring, like when her cat dies. But the song Kabhi Kabhi Aditi cheered it up.

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  6. Yah, glad you saw this and liked it. It's just a cute, fresh movie. You're right, it's nothing new but it still is really good.

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  7. Oh, gosh, I seem to be the only one who thought this was a dull movie. It dealt with all the terrible romantic comedy cliches that I avoid Hollywood for. :(

    I didn't like "Meow" and her self-centeredness. I didn't like how "Rats" gave up his pacifism and insulted his mother at the end. I didn't like how they treated their friends.

    In fact, the only thing I did like was the songs!

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  8. this is kinda good, adding a freshness to the usual malarky of romance! but i really didn't like genelia's character, she seemed vey screwy with the men in her life! but alas there was imran who's sooo CUUUTTEE!

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  9. Hi Ajnabi! Really glad you got a chance to see and enjoy it! I really enjoyed the narrative and dialogue, very good work by Abbas Tyrewala (thought the lingo was very well researched). Another big part of why I liked it was precisely Genelia's character! But maybe it's because I know people like her, who I enjoy being friends with (diversity's good :P). Besides, I liked that there was some equilibrium; if there was a mean Genelia, there was a meaner than mean Sushant!

    A couple of us were having this discussion somewhere...of all the new actresses out there (including Katrina, Deepika, Asin, Anushka, etc.), Genelia's probably the most real in and out of film. And I really think she and Imran can be the second coming of Aamir-Juhi, as blasphemous as that sounds :) There are also some distinct similarities in Jaane Tu with some of Aamir's films (especially from 1988-1995)...I wonder if those were a coincidence, or if it's just me being too analytical where I shouldn't be, LOL.

    Cheers.

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  10. This was such a fun movie. I loved Imran's pacifism and how he brings up new ways for not fighting - the dialogues are so much fun! And the way the movie is so cliched and yet manages to be interesting and fun. Of course, I enjoyed spotting all my favorite TV stars from 80s (Kitu Gidwani had some really good TV serials under her belt, then) and Naseer-Ratna were just the icing on the cake. Like Filmi Girl, though, I didnt like "Meow" and couldnt get Jai's devotion to her, but I could easily forgive him because he had such awesome friends!

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  11. I m with thebollywoodfan, for new Aamir-Juhi....the duo makes awesome pair.
    I love this cutesy cuddly romance. Can't get enough of it, and Genelia.

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  12. p.s. Thanx for putting me on your blogroll :-)

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  13. Hey, thanks a ton for adding me to your blog list :)

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  14. LOL at you husband's comments both before and after the movie!

    I thought only Indian husbands gave suffering sighs when they have to accompany their wives to see a bollywood movie esp on the big screen. If it is a DVD at home, they can easily find convenient excuses about having lots of do - gardening etc !

    I guess age has a lot to do too. The same desi husbands were quite regular in watching bolly movies in their 20s. Wonder what happens as time passes?

    Good review of a good entertaining movie. All the actors have done a good job. Abbas Tyrewala has done very well for a first time direction attempt. He is the guy who wrote the Munna Bhai dialogues.

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  15. Thank you all very much for your comments!

    Bhargav--I really liked Pappu Can't Dance; it was totally fun and the picturization matched it. And yeah, my pleasure to add you to the blogroll; I love passing the Bollywood word any way I can. :-)

    PPCC--compared to the rest of Rahman's work I'd agree with you that it's mid-grade, but compared to the soundtracks of the other films I've been watching it was great. LOL Nehaflix is having its CD sale right now so I think I'll grab Yuvraaj.

    Shweta--I liked how all the parents were portrayed very positively (with the notable exception of Meghna's of course). That scene when Peachy and Pumpkin were cracking up after sticking their feet in their mouths with Jai had me giggling like a madwoman.

    Nida--at last, you and I agree on a film! ;-) Actually I don't think this is the first time we have. I watched the movie again last night and it just confirmed the great quality of the screenplay for me.

    The Bollywood Lover--agreed, the opening scenes were pretty slow, and the credits in the beginning were so blah, but after Kabhi Kabhi Aditi the whole movie really revved up.

    Nicki--I think JTYJN just goes to show that good storytelling sometimes trumps newness.

    Filmi Girl: Yes. You are the only one. No, I'm just kidding; I know from reading the threads at BollyWHAT that there's a significant minority who agree with you. Still, overall I do beg leave to disagree. I didn't think Jai disrespected his mother nearly as much as she did him; she lied to him about his entire heritage and his father's life and death. Her reasons were understandable but it was still a pretty crappy thing to do. And Jai's pacifism didn't grow out of personal conviction, which I believe any such choices must in order to hold over the long haul. But all in all it was just a fun viewing experience for me; I don't mean to overanalyze it. :-)

    Rum: I thought Aditi was just confused about what she wanted and had to see a little more of the world before she realized what she really should have. And yeah, Imran is supahcute. Yay for young hotties!

    Hi The Bollywood Fan! I am so jealous of your ability to actually note the genuine lingo in the film. I thought it sounded/read well but of course you can never be sure! I actually didn't think Aditi was all that mean; like you I've been friends with girls like her and usually they mellow with age. It takes a while for leaders to grow into their abilities. ;-) I've only seen two Aamir/Juhi pairings but I agree that their vibe is similar to Genelia's and Imran's--she so flashy-cute and he more low-key but intense. I would love to see more of both pairings!

    Bollyviewer--okay, I've seen the movie twice now and I'm starting to think I must be a jerk because I didn't dislike Aditi at all! LOL I thought Jai's methods of avoiding fights were hilarious.

    Darshit: I can't get enough of it either; it's definitely going on my to-buy list. And of course I added you, your blog is fun! :-)

    Anonymous: Haha, I think those husbands must just get jealous that they can't compete with the lovely overblown declarations of passionate pyaar in Bollywood films. There's no other explanation. ;-) Thank you for the compliment, and for the info; I've been waiting to watch the MunnaBhai movies forever.

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  16. Oooh! As much as we don't line up on this one completely, I do take your point about how the two leads developed inward- and outward-facing understanding as needed. Well put.

    Reading everyone else's thoughts on this is making me feel ANCIENT. Thank Helen for Filmi Girl!

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