Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na

Okay, Bollyviewer and Indie Quill and Antarra and others with hard-core Shashi Kapoor-song knowledge: is there something inherent about movies named after Shashi Kapoor songs that makes them so unexciting to me? Or is it just me? I don't love DDLJ or Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi, and I'm not that excited about Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na - or about how firmly it lodged that song in my head for going on 60 hours now. I was surprised to find myself so annoyed - how could I hate something that softened Mumbai streetscapes into sunny (if cheesily Photoshopped) impressionist moments?


When I was tweeting about the film as I watched it, someone told me that the language is what makes it special; I'm totally unqualified to talk about that, though I did pick up on and enjoy the generally breezy tone and genuinely person-to-person feel of the conversations. Maybe I'm too old to care about 21-year-olds sorting themselves out. If writing "I'm gay" on your friend as a joke is your sense of humor, I'm not interested - to me this just seems completely immature in an uncontextualized, irrelevant way.

By age-based logic (or cultural-based, for that matter), I shouldn't care for Dil Chahta Hai either, and it's one of my favorites, so I'm not willing to accept that as the fundamental problem for me with this movie.

My most significant complaint is probably with the character of Aditi, who is of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl type that I utterly loathe, be it in Bolly, Holly, or anywhere else. You can tell she's an adorable sprite of a free spirit by her head/hair accessories,


her suddenly-discovered ability to dance, her constant video camera usage, her pouting, and her violent streak, which is sugar-coated into cutely spunky. (Side note: when a woman is assertive, she's a bitch; when she's bellicose, she's adorable. WTF?) To be honest, my brain pretty much shut down once I got a sense of Aditi. I've never seen anything truly great come out of a story centered on a manic pixie dream girl. The charm of this type of character is totally lost on me, and the script's insistence that she is lovable! wacky! a free spirit! was unconvincing and repetitive. To top that off, Aditi of course wants to be protected and taken care of, like she's an infant. Gag me. Maybe writer/director Abbas Tyrewala was going for child-like, but to me, like all her literary and cinematic sisters, she's childISH. [Update to post, soon after writing: I just realized that the actor who plays Aditi's mother, Anuradha Patel, played the equally annoying manic pixie dream girl in the far more annoying Ijaazat! Whoa!] It is important to note that I think Genelia did as well as she could with the material she was given, and I don't blame her for how irritating Aditi was, though I could do with fewer twee eye gymnastics (which is how I felt about her performance in Bommarillu too).

Oh, and another thing about Aditi: her arc was insulting and dangerous. Let's contrast what happens to our two leads on their paths to eventual epiphany that they are each other's soul mate. Jai dates someone of his own choosing who is sweet and cute but eventually gets on his nerves; he steps up to his responsibility and is honest with Meghna about his misgivings, while she in turn fairly calls him out on how he hurts her, and their relationship ends mostly amicably and with admirable self-awareness.


Very nice. After a period of pouting over Jai and Meghna, Aditi gets set up by her parents with - and instantly engaged to - someone who is a one-man parade of red flags. He ignores her, emotionally cheats on her, and then hits her, at which point she is finally certain that this guy is wrong for her and it's best to give him up even though she thinks Jai is still in love with Meghna. NO, MOVIE. NO. As un-fond as I am of the "boys only become men by beating each other up and breaking the law" garbage that Jai was assigned - a.k.a. a spin-off of "boys will be boys" indulgence - the idea that women are supposed to learn something through violence inflicted on them by their supposed romantic partner is absolutely unacceptable to me. It also felt totally out of tone with the rest of the film, which even with my dependence on subtitles seemed otherwise mostly cute and candy-flossy.

Apart from these big problems, there were a lot of things about Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na that I liked. Well-done stories about friends are always welcome, and if I could cut out the principal romance from this film and just watch the cheerfully acted, amusingly scripted friends, I'd even hope for a sequel.

Cuuuuute!
The friends got some lovely subtlety in characterization, like Shaleen's little disapproving sideways glances at Aditi's jealous acting out or Rotlu sadly moping with unrequited love outside a party.

The lead pair's parents may have been a bit too perfect, but that was a nice change after so many films of melodraMAAAAAAAAAAAA. Jai sinking into his mother's arms was totally believable and appropriate.

All of the supporting cast was wonderful; I wanted more of all of them. Well, except for Rajat Kapoor as Meghna's creepy, abusive father or...I've spaced the name of Aditi's loathsome fiancé. Shudder. It doesn't even seem fair to call most of them "supporting," because they were essential to the pleasures of this film.

Unimportant point: we first see the Khan brothers' characters across the parking lot and can't make out their faces but can tell they're cowboys, I thought "Oh boy, I don't know who this will be, but wouldn't it be superb if it were Raj and Pablo?" The only thing in this whole movie that surprised me pleasantly was how the brothers turned out to have at least one redeeming quality (not that that overshadowed their tendencies towards the date-rape-y). Oh, and another: I spy a mullet! A Bolly mullet!


My advice for those who are anti-manic pixie dream girls getting abused by boyfriends? Take joy (potentially generous amounts!) in Jai's mom (Ratna Pathak Shah), the funny (even to me!) "Papu Can't Dance" picturization, and the wonderful gaggle of friends. I don't at all get the big fuss about this movie, but it has its moments. Though they rest mostly with the non-lead characters, at least Tyrewala had the good sense to give them ample resources to shine.

16 comments:

rhilex said...

You've a right to your opinion! :) I don't really see how this film was a HUGE hit, but I genuinely liked it a lot and thought it was sweet.

Question! What did you think of Imran?

kmatthews said...

I hadn't watched this thinking maybe I wasn't really the target audience for it, and couldn't find myself getting excited over anything. Did like "Pappu can't Dance" though.

Now I do want to see it, because I thought Genelia's character in Life Partner was the most horrific harridan I'd seen in cinema in a long time, and I wanted to see her do something else.

It seems to be an extension of that idea that assertive = bitch, though Sanjana was truly just an awful person all the way 'round. We were, I think, supposed to find her cute and charming in her childishness. I came to loathe her and couldn't figure out why *anyone* would want to marry her.

Yes, that's a bit of a ramble, but essentially, I'm wondering "what's up with Genelia"? In interviews she seems sweet and fun, and I think she has a most interesting voice. So I think I'm now compelled to watch this movie to try to figure that out.

Bollyviewer said...

Movies based on Shashi Kapoor songs dont have leads who are even half as charismatic (yes, SRK's charisma totally escapes me!) - that MUST be the reason why the movies are baaad. ;-)

This one though, I liked quite a bit. Agreed about Genelia's character - thoroughly annoying (my friends who watch Southern films tell me that she is ALWAYS 'Manic Pixie Dream Girl' - maybe its her onscreen character?). But I loved the hilarious stratagems Imran's character comes up with, to avoid fighting. And Naseer-Ratna's ongoing battle was such fun - wish the movie had just centered on that! Plus, no matter how annoying Jai-Aditi were, they had the most adorable friends EVER. :-)

The movie was very cliche but somehow invested the cliches with FUN and for that I can forgive a whole lot. The cliched last-minute-dash-to-the-airport part, for example, was handled pretty well and had me in splits.

neha vish said...

Ah... Genelia. Why did Aditi have to be so fundamentally stupid? Perhaps they were trying to capture her "innocence"? I have no idea. In the end, I just thought she came across as a rather unlikable character who was manipulative, childish when suited her, and bitchy to the core.

RNBDJ just annoyed me, as did DDLJ even when I saw it all those years back. Something about man-woman relationships degenerating into what is acceptable and what isn't. Which might have been more okay in the 70s.

Filmi Girl said...

Yuck, yuck, yuck is all I have to say about this film. Yuck.

My review is here but maybe I'll move it to my new space tomorrow. :)

http://filmi-girl.livejournal.com/159610.html

I remember being very unimpressed with both the character of "Meow" and how Jai's mother is marginalized by the end of the film.

rossywar said...

re: Manic Pixie Dream Girl-ness - I would love to know your thoughts about Jab We Met which has what I consider to be a *good* use of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl character.

memsaabstory said...

I would enjoy a larger exposition of what exactly a Manic Pixie Dream Girl is made up of :-) Make a list, Beth, make a list!

Michael Barnum said...

Oh gosh, I must admit that I loved this movie. It was not orignal, it was not earth shattering in any way, but it made me feel good and I love that in a film!

And much of my love for it has to do with the casting of Imran Khan. He really is quite a fine young actor and I was duly impressed.

Sanket Vyas said...

Liked this movie quite a bit and Imran Khan was very impressive in his debut. I understand the reasons why you didn't like it and they are completely valid points. I was reminded of 'Jab We Met' in both the scope and general feel of the movie and I loved that movie as well.

Having grown up on a steady diet of Indian movies, I tend to judge them on a very different scale than Hollywood ones. The issues that you bring up regarding date rape, violence toward women and characters like Aditi can be maddening but for whatever reason they get a pass from me as far as Indian movies are concerned. It's hard to explain but the things that would 'get' to me in Hollywood just don't when I am watching a Bollywood one.

I have read reviews on movies such as this, Pakeezah, Mother India, etc. where all sorts of issues get brought up and I am left scratching my head at the uproar. My parents moved to the US when I was three so I am more American than anything else. But maybe growing up in an Indian family as well as culture, the issues just don't hit you over the head as if you didn't. Again, i don't think I explained this well but maybe I will try to do so in a future blog posting. FWIW, we watched the movie with some American friends (who had watched exactly one Bollywood movie before this one) as well as my parents and everyone liked it about the same.

Filmi Girl said...

@memsaab You should check out the wikipedia article on the MPDGs!

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manic_Pixie_Dream_Girl

Very annoying character trope...

I'm still pondering out why I had such a negative reaction to the film and am circling around this: I am a person who likes to have a character to identify with in a movie - not necessarily somebody like me but somebody who is my emotional baseline. And the idea that I was supposed to either identify with "Rats" or "Meow" when they were both so self-centered really turned me off.

It's the same problem I have with a lot of Hollywood rom-coms, too. This film just didn't have a sense of the wide scope that even something rom-comish like Jab We Met managed to create.

I suppose if you were just watching it like I tend to watch a rerun of Friends as kind of a passive entertainment where you can laugh at zingers or the "I am gay" then it might be a harmless enough film.

Nida said...

Maybe your subconscious mind automatically rejects these movies because they will never live up to the Shashilicious imagery they were created from. Just kidding. I totally get why you didn't like the movie--alot of the points you brought up would ordinarily have turned me off in Hollywood, but... somehow I always let Bollywood get away with so much more. For example. The MPDG type has never been a female figure I could identify with. But there was something about Aditi that I liked, and I really think it was how different-looking she was from other Bollywood heroines.

I rather liked this movie, but it wasn't one of my favorites. I think I was so charmed by the entire cast (and in love with Imran!!), that there was no way I'd be able to dislike this film.

indiequill said...

Beth, I think Meghna was probably my fave part of this movie. It took me a while to realize it because the way she's introduced as the damsel in distress (although she finds a way to make Jai squirm a little even in that minute) made me instantly wary and she was much more annoying than Aditi with her little game of make believe - although that could just be a manifestation of my everyday dislike for guileless young things.

But what I enjoyed about her character is that she's fucked up in her own way and she knows it and she doesn't feel like she needs to apologize for it or change it because the boy told her so. And she calls Jai out on his dickishness.

The movie itself was an enjoyable fribble. The teachable violence was grating, yes. There was no reason why Aditi couldn't have had a teachable moment when she saw him in his natural element.

Memsaab - Have you seen the Zooey Deschanel movie called 500 Days of Summer? It's a cute little movie but it's also pretty much the definitive Manic Pixie Dream Girl Movie. Probably because it was written by a guy who got his dumped by one.

Guttu said...

Probably the music turned this into hit. There is nothing in this movie. I wasted my time watching this. At the end of this movie all I liked was "Kabhi kabhi aditi" and of course the character played by Ratna Pathak.

The Nonsense Blog

Carol said...

I only watched it once and liked it, but now I have few memories and I think I love it.Yes, I need to watch it again.

Hey, I know why I liked it:Imran is sooooooooo cute! ;P

Probably the music turned this into hit. There is nothing in this movie.[2]

I spent days and more days downloandinng it and it was a movie like another million.

Sonia said...

Either you didn't think much of Imran or you hated Genelia so much that you didn't talk about him. I see where you're coming from about the Genelia thing (everyone hates her in this movie). But, I LOVED the movie!

Agreed about the friends. Must have a spin off there. Like everyone else said, the music made the movie work a LOT more than it should have.

Also, it's old wine in a new bottle. That shit works in Bollywood (money wise).Rom-coms are not an old idea here. They mostly came up in the late 80s to 90s. Had a few here and there in the 70s, but the romance was usually in the background. This is mostly why they keep doing rom-coms that have been viewed by you a million times in Hollywood. Till it gets really old, they'll keep trying! :)

Beth said...

Sonia - Probably the latter - I like Imran a lot and as I recall thought he was perfectly fine here. I think I might just be a little too old for this movie - I need something VERY special to happen to make me invest much in the romantic bumblings of young'uns. :)