Jaideep Ahlawat shines next to Kareena Kapoor – When Sujoy Ghosh’s latest film title was unveiled about a month ago, I was taken aback. Yet another Netflix India thriller named after a renowned Hindi song? “Are they running out of original titles?”, I pondered.
The platform already hosts titles like “Raat Akeli Hai”, “Haseen Dillruba”, “Yeh Kaali Kaali Ankhein”, and “Monica, O My Darling”. Following suit is “Jaane Jaan”. Notably, just like “Monica…” from the previous year, this film also draws inspiration from a novel by Japanese mystery maestro, Keigo Higashino.
While it’s acknowledged that translating ‘The Devotion of Suspect X’ to Hindi might not be straightforward, the evident lack of creativity in titling seemed disappointing. However, my reservations were put to rest once I watched the movie.
Surprisingly, there is a meaningful connection between the film’s title and the iconic song. The song ‘Aa Jaan-E-Jaan’, a unique cabaret rendition by Lata Mangeshkar featured in the 1969 thriller “Intaqam” and showcased Helen’s enchanting dance.
In “Jaane Jaan”, the protagonist Maya D’Souza, played by Kareena Kapoor Khan, is depicted as a former nightclub dancer striving to leave her history behind. The playful yet profound lyrics of the song echo Maya’s current situation and her intertwining fate with two men.
In a notable scene, we witness her performing the song during karaoke, juxtaposed with visuals of Helen from the original song, creating a nostalgic bridge that harkens back to Kareena’s homage to Helen in the “Yeh Mera Dil” sequence from “Don” (2006).
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In her past, Maya went by the name Soniya, bound in matrimony to Ajit (Saurabh Sachdeva), a coercive cop driven by greed. Escaping his clutches 14 years prior, she sought solace in Kalimpong, a serene hill station in West Bengal. Now, as a devoted mother and the owner of a quaint cafe serving coffee and Chinese cuisine, she’s content.
But her past catches up when Ajit unexpectedly confronts her at the cafe. Tensions mount, leading to a turbulent encounter at her residence. In the climax of their confrontation, Ajit meets his end, succumbing to the cord of a water heater — an uncanny weapon for a Himalayan locale.
Drawing parallels with Sujoy’s critically acclaimed “Kahaani” (2012), which thrived not just because of Vidya Balan but also due to the stellar performances of Nawazuddin Siddiqui and Saswata Chatterjee, “Jaane Jaan” thrives on the talents of its ensemble cast.
As Maya, reeling from the shock and unaccustomed to such a dire situation, contemplates her next step, an unexpected ally emerges. Naren (Jaideep Ahlawat), a prodigious, albeit isolated, math professor residing next door, steps in.
Swiftly managing the aftermath, offering alibis and guidance, his intentions are clear. He’s always harbored feelings for Maya, something she previously overlooked. However, recognizing his proficiency in crisis management, she finds herself inclined to rely on his expertise.
The plot thickens with the introduction of a keen-eyed inspector, Karan (Vijay Varma). Sujoy masterfully contrasts these diverse characters against one another, setting the stage for a battle of wits between two FTII alumni, with the iconic “Poo” from “Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham” (2001) at the center. A palpable undercurrent of sexual tension between characters adds a layer of intrigue.
Naren, though reserved, evokes shades of Shah Rukh Khan’s character from “Darr.” Meanwhile, Karan’s candid, sometimes coarse remarks about Maya add to the complexity. This intricate web of intentions and emotions climaxes in a brilliantly orchestrated scene, leaving viewers reevaluating their perceptions.
Despite being promoted as Kareena Kapoor Khan’s foray into the streaming domain, “Jaane Jaan” succeeds as a collective effort.
Khan seamlessly blends into the ensemble, enhancing the narrative rather than overshadowing it. Her portrayal is crisp and adept, nearly on par with Varma’s dynamic performance. Yet, the spotlight undeniably rests on Ahlawat. He delivers one of his most immersive roles, portraying a gentle behemoth, his towering presence juxtaposed against the ethereal evening mist.
Occasional smiles punctuate his scarred visage, reminiscent of unexpected rainfall in arid lands. Ahlawat’s portrayal of a jujutsu sequence stands out for its tranquility and subtle allure, embodying Bruce Lee’s idea of being ‘formless, shapeless, like water.’
Jaane Jaan is currently streaming on Netflix