Friday Classics: Jaane Tu….Ya Jaane Na, The Magic of that Moment When You Don’t Quite Know Yet, But You Kind of Do

We were just talking about this in the comments yesterday, how exciting it was to see Imraan when he was first launched.  Which got me thinking about this movie in general, and how good it was, and how strange it is that no one involved in this promising first film really lived up to their promise.  At least, not yet.  There’s always hope!

I got to see this launch up close because it happened while I was visiting India for the first time.  Not like I met Imraan or anything, just that sitting around the guest house watching TV I saw a bunch of interviews and ads.  And then I wanted to see it at the multiplex, but it was sold out (thus seeing Thoda Pyar Thoda Magic instead, an odd film to be my first in theaters in India), and we ended up watching it at the old unairconditioned single-screen in the floor seats.  Super fun!

The end result was that I enjoyed this movie at about the peak level you could possibly enjoy it.  I knew all the songs, I knew the really good song we were waiting for, I was pumped to see Imraan onscreen after seeing a bunch of charming mini-interviews, and I was surrounded by a bunch of people who also knew all the songs, and started cheering and whistling as soon as “Kabhi Kabhi Aditi” started up.

I don’t think it was just me enjoying this movie because of the situation I saw it in, I think it is a sincerely good movie, and also kind of an exciting movie.  It didn’t exactly break the mold, but it did a very good job within the mold.  A college romance, sure, but with distinctive characters and a fresh look and a perfectly balanced narrative that never fully moved into “I can’t believe how stupid these people are being” while at the same time showing conflicts entirely of their own making.  It made me eager to see what this director/writer would do next.

And it made me really eager to see what the actors would do next!  All of them, but especially Imraan and Genelia. It was his launch film after all, so he got the really good bits.  But Genelia was no slouch, and as the other half of the romance she had a fair amount to do too.  To me, then, she was a fresh young actress in her first role and I was very impressed.  Of course now I know she had been acting since she was 14 and being the female lead of a young romance was no big deal for her.

(She’d even been the female lead in a young romance with an AR Rahman soundtrack before)

This seems shallow, but part of what was exciting for me was the pure look of them.  Genelia has such a distinctive look, big eyes and expressive face and so much personality in it!  Very different from the buffed smooth and perfect look of the other actresses I was used to.  And Imraan, his face was different too.  Like his uncle’s, but not at the same time.  And with a kind of imperfectness to it that was very appealing, like that guy in college who is really cute and funny and you kind of have a crush on him, but you can’t explain why exactly since he isn’t model handsome.  It felt like we were seeing something old (the romances from the early 90s and 80s and 70s where people looked imperfect) and new (young people who talked and dressed and acted like the young people of today).

Everything about the film was exciting!  I wanted to see more of Imraan and more of Genelia and more of them together.  I wanted to see more films by this director/writer.  I wanted to see the rest of the cast in more stuff, Pratiek Babbar especially, but everyone else too, all the friends and parents and everyone.

And then nothing happened!  That’s what’s so odd about this movie, it’s a magical moment of promise, promise that turned into nothing for all involved.  That’s the biggest difference in watching it now instead of then.  We know that this is one magical perfect film that will never be recreated for anyone involved.  In a way, it makes it even more valuable, that we know now how rare it will be, not the start of a series of wonderful happy films with these wonderful happy people in them, but the only one that will ever be like this.

 

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The essential structure of this film is very old-fashioned.  A boy and girl are friends along with a whole bunch of other college friends.  Eventually they fall in love.  The boy rescues her from her evil fiancee, and they admit their love for each other. It’s the middle part that is so interesting, the “eventually they fall in love” part.

 

There is nothing really keeping these two people apart.  Right at the beginning, Genelia’s parents try to arrange their engagement, fully supportive.  Even their friends kind of assumed they were together.  And they are together, really, they talk constantly spend all their time together know everything about each other and so on and so on.  But that last step, the acknowledging this connection that is already in place and figuring out what to do about it, that is so difficult.

And here is where the script is so good.  Because we can see from these characters why they would have such a hard time with this final piece.  Imraan is middle-class, lives with his single mother in a tiny apartment.  Genelia lives in a big house with her parents and her brother.  Imraan is struggling to find a job or get into a grad school program, get his life together.  Genelia is just enjoying her time and not thinking that much about the future.  Imraan is practical and calm and smart.  Genelia is quick and crazy and impulsive.  And they each know all of this about each other.

 

What is really wonderful is that over the course of the film we see them grow up into the person the other one needs.  Not because they want to be that person for the other, but because they are young and just post graduation and this is when you do grow up a little, fill in those gaps in your personality.  And so Genelia learns how to keep emotions to herself, to maintain control, to solve her own problems and take the mature approach.  And Imraan learns that he can let go of his anger, he doesn’t have to stay the sweet little boy his mother wants him to be.

This is a journey they had to take separately, even though it hurt.  Genelia had to be lonely enough to reach out to and understand her older brother, to learn from him how to keep things inside and hide pain if it might hurt others.  And desperate enough to take a risk on the kind of guy that she thought she wanted in order to learn that he wasn’t what she wanted at all.  And Imraan had to live the fantasy for a while, the sweet beautiful girl who loved him, life being perfect and easy and right, in order to see that it was a fantasy and life required fighting, just as Genelia always said.

The focus is on Imraan, he’s the star kid being launched, and he is the character with the clearly defined movement towards maturity.  We learn early own that the men in his family have to do 3 things before they are “men”: 1. Get in a fight, 2. Go to jail, 3. Ride a horse.  And so the whole film is building to those things.  Not a complete rejection of the peaceful methods he has learned from his mother, but an acknowledgement that he has something else inside of him that has to come out, as shown through his recurring very-Zanjeer-influenced dream of a cloaked figure on horseback.  It feels “filmi”, but really it is just growing up, learning that the way you thought you would always be isn’t actually everything that you are.  That the world won’t always fall into happy perfect place the way you thought it would.  And that this isn’t a bad thing, that knowing everything that is inside of you will help you, not hurt.

But around Imraan, everyone else is going through their own growing up.  Genelia, she is learning that the world won’t always adjust itself for her, she has to make compromises.  And not make compromises.  She will agree to the arranged marriage, she will make an effort to spend time with her brother, she will try to please her parents, all of that is good.  But when her fiance is truly terrible to her, and when she realizes that she just does not want him, she will not compromise.  She won’t throw a tantrum the way she would before, but she will find a middle ground.  Just as Imraan, in the end, gets into his fight, but in the politest calmest manner possible, not impulsively.

The one I find most interesting is Manjari Phadnis, Imraan’s girlfriend.  She seems like a perfect match for him, a dreamy sweet girl.  But then Imraan starts to grow up and get complicated emotions, little moments of jealousy over Genelia, sudden surprising anger when a police officer disrespects his mother, things that don’t fit in a perfect happy view of the world.  And as he grows up, he becomes more irritated with the way Manjari stubbornly refuses to grow up.  What was at first endearing becomes hateful to him.  A very realistic view of a breakup.  Especially a post-college years breakup, when people are growing up at different rates.

What makes this film over the top to “boy, I want to see what this director does next!” is that Manjari’s refusal to grow up isn’t shallow, and isn’t a last minute complication.  It’s threaded through out their romance, they bond in the first place through Imraan using a story to help save her in a club.  Manjari likes stories, likes fantasy. Her favorite game is looking at an everyday object and imagining it is something wonderful.  And we learn in the end that this was a defense mechanism, she saw her parents’ terrible marriage and couldn’t live with it, so she retreated to fantasy.  She and Imraan were two people both running from reality.  But he was running from the reality inside himself while she was running from the reality surrounding her.  He had a much easier time recovering than she did, and once he had recovered, he couldn’t go back.

Genelia’s journey and romance are the same, to a lessor degree.  She is also running from something in her family that she doesn’t want to acknowledge is in her, this time the softness of her brother who used to be her best friend and quietly accepted it when she found her new group of friends.  But now she is learning from him, about acceptance and moving away and letting people grow.  And her romance is with someone who, briefly, seems to be on that same moving away and letting people grow and accepting track.  Her fiance is agreeing to an arranged marriage because he is ready to settle down and his friends and girlfriend didn’t work out.  Only Genelia is on her way back to realizing that she does want and need her friends, and that she should fight for her romance with Imraan instead of just accepting that it doesn’t make sense.  While her fiance is on a journey of making this part of his fight, getting engaged not sincerely but to spite his ex-girlfriend, and to take his anger at her out on Genelia.

The title of the movie is “Jaane Tu….Ya Jaane Na” (you know….or you don’t know).  And that’s kind of what it’s about, all of these people who both don’t and do know all at the same time.  They are at that point of growing up where they are beginning to see the truth but haven’t fully accepted it yet.  And the whole film does a wonderful job of capturing that moment.

In “real life”, all these characters and actors and artists are trapped in amber at that point.  Imraan and Genelia as actors never moved beyond their arrested characters here, not so far.  The director Abbas Tyrewala never moved past this storyline of immature friends helping each other.  All that promise on the cusp of happening in this film ended up not actually happening.  But that makes it more meaningful somehow, going back to the moment when the world was full of possibilities, Imraan was going to be the next Aamir, Genelia was going to be the next Kajol, and Abbas Tyrewala was going to be the next Karan Johar.

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13 thoughts on “Friday Classics: Jaane Tu….Ya Jaane Na, The Magic of that Moment When You Don’t Quite Know Yet, But You Kind of Do

  1. So glad you got to see this movie in a non-A/C single screen, the best way to watch movies for sure. I watched in a multiplexy set up which wasn’t so bad either but nothing beats a single screen movie watching experience.
    I still love this movie. Just as I did then. Lots of things endeared the movie to me.(Besides the fact that friends to lovers is my fav theme as you can see from my “Niram” gushing). So I loved everything about the movie, the dialogues, the friends, the music, the parents, the awesome brother. Also some of the parts are so hilarious I quote it till date.
    The way Paresh Rawal says “violent streak” or the way he enunciates love and makes it sound like loooooowwweeeee.
    Ratna Pathak Shah in it is still my favorite onscreen mom. For which other mother has ever schrunched her face when her son asks for samosey (besides they take turns to cook food like normal people should ) ..considering Old screen moms were always ready with kheer or ghajar ka halwa even in the middle of the night. So yeah she’s the mom I aspire to be. Haha.
    The element of fantasy in the movie is so embedded into the narrative that it doesn’t even feel odd. Naseeruddin Shah having the most fun he’s ever had onscreen.
    The police officer singing Jaane Tu ya jaane na still tickles me.
    Above all I loved how Imran and Genelia were anti thesis of a typical hero or heroine. He was calm and collected. She was the gaali giving impulsive wild cat. He didn’t need her to be a different to like her. A rare feet again.
    Also, kahin toh hogi woh duniya jaha tu mere saat hai.. lyrics and music 😘😘

    Ps- Thank you Margaret for the thoughtful card with Baahubali Sr & Jr in it. 😊

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    • thank you for reminding me of the element of fantasy! You are right, it fits in seamlessly. it’s the perfect way to introduce us to Imraan’s heritage, without him being fully aware of it. And everything comes together when Ratna talks to Naseerji and we see how she’s been fighting his influence the whole time but knew it was a losing battle all along.

      On Fri, Dec 1, 2017 at 5:27 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  2. Eventhough this movie had the same plot as Niram, it wasn’t as irritating.Maybe because there were other people in it and the lead pair grew up over the movie.The Naseer Ratna equation reminded me of their roles in Paheli.And it made perfect sense to cast Arbaaz and Sohail Khan as brothers.And their nicknames.Of course it must have come from their childhood, when they must all have loved watching The Jungle Book.Bhalu, Bagheera and Imraan must have been Mowgli.

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    • the casting for this movie is so good! The older experienced cast are perfect for their roles, and the younger ones feel like they aren’t even acting, they are just being themselves.

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  3. I remember feeling like this movie was realistic. The most realistic bit- genelia and imran are talking about where their three years of college went and ratna pathak says “phone pe beta, phone pe”

    I used to spend upto 14 hours a day on the phone with my BFF when she went home for the holidays and this thing felt so real to us.

    I really haven’t watched a bad imran film thankfully. So basically I think of him as the guy who I loved in Mere Brother ki Dulhan (my male BFF specially called me up to tell me the Katrina character reminded him of me and he told his other friends he knows a girl like that and he ordered me to go watch that and I did) and the guy I loved in Delhi Belly (which I watched because my childhood BFF who was then more of a long distance friend sent me an endless stream of Shake That Biscuit memes and I watched the film just to figure out why those memes would be so appealing to him!)

    Also never watched a genelia role that I didn’t like her in. It may be because she’s really likeable. Her smile is so genuine. Both of them have that!

    BTW the film was loosely based on Forget Paris which I absolutely loved way way before this one came along!!

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  4. And I just realized that now that the cast is slightly older, they can actually do a full remake of Forget Paris. Actually, our older lot should. It’s the perfect middle aged people movie. Including the adorable Pappy and his repetitive tune! 😂

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  5. Pingback: Film Reviews | dontcallitbollywood

  6. What a gem of a film. Among my favorites ever! I really wanted to see Genelia take off. 😦 But addressing your point, can you name any movies with ensemble casts of new or unfamiliar players in which any of the players took off? That seems a common formula in Hollywood but surprisingly uncommon in Bollywood. Two recent exceptions are Gangs of Wasseypur and Kai Po Che; the aftereffects of Dangal remain to be seen; but other ensemble pieces like mohabetein, chak de India, even RDB and 3 idiots, didn’t seem to propel anyone’s career forward.

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    • Huh, you’re right. Although you do at least see them in other things, enough to have a wikipedia entry if nothing else. This cast, they don’t even have that.

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