Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Jaan-e-Mann

Because I just mentioned Shirish Kunder's new film, I thought I would re-post my review of Jaan-e-Mann. On the one hand, I understand why this flopped but on the other, I think it definitely deserves to be a cult classic. If you are a fan of off-beat movies, definitely check this one out!


In answer to the question posed on this poster, "Yes. Yes, I am ready for Jaan-e-Mann." This is one of those Bollywood films where I'm sure someone watching with no idea of the actors would have had a different take on it.


Shirish Kunder’s “Jaan-E-Mann” transports its Indian characters to New York. This leads to, among other things, a shopping trip at Columbus Circle and a comic fight scene (involving a male character in drag) across from the Times Square Sephora.

The cultural juxtaposition is inherently amusing, especially when the producers make unexpected choices to illustrate American culture. (The vehicle parked in the driveway of the heroine’s parents’ tasteful suburban mansion? A white Hummer limo.) It is also fun to see the Bollywood formula applied to a college rock concert, complete with swaying cigarette lighters.

Try again, New York Times! (Or better yet - hire me to write Bollywood reviews for you, please!) Shirish Kunder is deliciously mocking the conventions of the NRI film, including such accoutrements as the ridiculous cars and mansions but I'll get to that later. While the New York Times was busy being baffled that the Indian characters weren't living in a slum and fighting off lives in prostitution and drug dealing, I, on the other hand, spent most of the movie psycho-analyzing Salman Khan's motivation for taking a role that sticks him in one humilating scene after another and marveling at how many Australians live in "New York."

The plot, such as it is, is fairly simple. Salman and Preity were married. Salman left her to pursue an acting career - which flopped - and Preity waited around for a while but then divorced him. Akshay shows up looking for Preity because he had a huge crush on her in college. Salman decides to help Akshay win Preity so that he does not have to pay her any alimony. While wooing Preity in a very Cyrano de Bergerac way, Salman rediscovers his love for Preity and Akshay realizes that she doesn't really love him, but Salman, who has been speaking through him.

The typical love story plot is used as a foundation or touchstone for some really wonderfully executed visual asides, bizarre storytelling, and meta-ruminations on romance stories in general.

Watch how the usual conventions of song picturizations are subverted:


And that's before we get to the killer performances by Akshay and Salman, reprising their rivalry from Mujhse Shaadi Karogi, a movie so terrible I could not finish it and exactly the kind of movie Shirish Kunder is deconstructing.



Salman's exaggerated Hero was really well done. (I stand by my statement that his best roles these days are playing caricatures of himself.) Nobody does narcissistic and arrogant like Salman, which makes it that much better when he is foiled at every opportunity. His character's narcissism extends to the apartment decorated with pictures of himself and his unwillingness to take non lead roles, despite the fact that he is a struggling actor. If he says that he's a Lead, then he is a Lead.





We have the Comic Relief, whose only purpose is usually to make The Hero look amazing. Of course, Bonney-uncle makes Salman look ridiculous in every single scene!



Akshay is adorable as the nerdy guy who loved Preity back in college, but was too nerdy to say anything to her. I really bought Akki as a nerd. He body language was so awkward and he used this really grating nervous laugh that was really unbearably unsuave.


The lady in question was mostly absent from the film, as ladies in these types of movies are. Jaan-e-Mann takes this to the extreme by having Salman and Akshay set up a camera to record Preity's movements and project them on a screen in their bedroom (where they share a bed, a nod to the bromantic quality of the film, perhaps). They go as far as to interact with the Preity on the screen, along with some more typical fantasy sequences.



As Preity starts to fall for Akki acting out Salman's role, Salman starts sneaking into Preity's apartment and doing things like watching her sleep. [Brief note from Filmi Girl of the future: Edward Cullen, much?]


Convinced that she is happier without him, Salman decides to leave "New York." It's at this point that Akki realizes that he and Preity have nothing in common and he can't talk to her at all without Salman's help. Then, there is a really wonderful scene where Akki rips off his 'cool' Salman-style clothes and puts on his dorky ones and recombs his hair back into his dorky hairstyle!!!! *swoon*



The Hero doesn't triumph. He gets off his high horse and takes some bit parts in regional cinema.



But, he does get the girl.



Akki gets the girl in a blond wig!

And where do we end up? Salman isn't reunited with a childhood sweetheart or the amazingly beautiful woman who works at his company. He's reunited with his wife - growing up a bit in the process and giving up dreams of being a Super Star in favor of working hard. Akki, on the other hand, wins the girl but gives her up because the changes he went through were superficial. He ends up in outer space.

This is one of my favorite Bollywood films of all time. ALL. TIME.

7 comments:

shell said...

I tried watching this a while ago but thought it was too strange for me (actually in all honesty I just wanted to check out the songs and got the trippy Jaane Ke Jaane Na and that was enough for me). But that was a long time ago and I've starting to gain an appreciation for Akki (who looks absolutely handsome in your screen caps!), so that may be enough for me to put it back on.
*shudders at Salman in drag*

TadyLovesDaniel said...

I really really hated this movie when I first saw it...my opinion of it still hasn't changed....I really can't bear to watch Salman "act"...the only and obvious good thing about this film is akshay's sexy nerdiness...but even that's not enough to save this film...well at least for me...*sorry*

Filmi Girl said...

Oh, funny! I think my tastes are generally a little off beat. :)

Like I said, I understand why it flopped because it's definitely not an easy movie but I do love it!

Ness said...

OMG I LOOOOOOOVE this movie SO much! Yeah, I can kinda see that it might not be everybody's cup of tea, but I agree with pretty much everything you have said about it (oh the adorably geeky nerd laugh)...and so much more! The scene where Akki breaks down crying and RIPS HIS CLOTHES OFF DRAMATICALLY?! Salman dressed as geeky Akki? Anupam, as a dwarf, dressed as Preity Zinta?! Omg my love for this film borders on the manic. LOVE LOVE LOVE.

veracious said...

I'm sort of two minds about this film. I loved it when I first saw it, still like the soundtrack, appreciate the performances in it a lot, but it doesn't hit the spot like it did the first few goes. It's clever but I feel like it doesn't utilize its cleverness enough.

And I admit I let the fact that the director is a huge douchebag affect my liking of this movie a little. I read some interviews of him and god, what a jackass.

Ameya said...

I loooove this movie! The visuals! Gorgeous!
And i think this is the movie where i really fell for Akki :)

Christine Menefee said...

I just tried watching this one and couldn't bear it. One of those you either love or you hate, judging from Netflix reviews. Thing is, I do like very much some other offbeat, satirical, and/or utterly bizarre Bollywood movies that other people hate, so it's not that I can't "get" what they're doing here; I just didn't LIKE it. I couldn't get past the Anupam Kher dwarf thing (WHY???) (and to show my high tolerance for stupid Anupam humor, I rather LIKED him in Zamana Deewana); everything else after that just struck me as equally cringeworthy as dwarf jokes. I liked one of the songs though, and tried to ff to catch the Akshay parts because I'll watch him in anything. Maybe in a few years I'll see this differently. Or maybe not.

Note from Filmi Girl:

I love Bollywood - and all the ridiculous things that happen in Bollywood - but it doesn't mean that I can't occasionally make fun of various celebrities and films.

If you don't like my sense of humor, please just move on by - Trolls are not appreciated and nasty comments will be deleted.

xoxo Filmi Girl