"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.