Monday, 4 April 2011

JAANE BHI DO YAARO- Hindi Film Review

         So India won the Cricket World Cup. I'm generally a sports-hater and super-duper Cricket-hater. Honestly the only time I liked cricket was in the epic Lagaan. But still, I am a Sachin Tendulkar fan and it was all for him and I have been feeling very patriotic for the past few days. I was actually watching a Bollywood film during the match, and I never do that on the laptop, ever. Now I had seen the second-half of this film, Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro or Just Let it Go, Friends many many times before, but on the 2nd of April, I saw it completely. And I was absolutely mind-blasted.

          The film is a dark satire on the corruption and the unethical attitude of people in modern India- from policemen to contractors to prominent journalists. And caught in the middle of it all are two honest and guileless photographers Vinod and Sudhir, who represent the common man. The first scene of the film shows them waiting for customers to come in order to inaugurate their photo studio- Beauty Photo Studio. Instead a rival photo studio which is opening on the same day sabotages all their arrangements. Then the film skips to three months later when their luck and business is going nowhere. It is then that an assistant editor of the newspaper Khabardaar, which is infamous for its exposés on various unscrupulous activities, hires them for an assignment. They are to take pictures of the secret meeting between the Municipal Commissioner D'Mello and the well-known builder Tarneja where he was going to bribe D'Mello into letting him build additional floors in his buildings and get the contracts to make four new bridges in Mumbai.

         We then meet the apparently highly-principled editor of Khabardaar- Shobha Sen, who now wants to actually go to D'Mello's beach house and record and take pictures of another meeting between him and Tarneja. In this meeting thy see that Tarneja has greatly increased the prices of the approved tenders for the building of the four bridges and bribes D'Mello to let him do so. As Shobha wants a closer picture of the papers of the tender, she and Vinod go in as journalists from American newspapers doing a story on D'Mello. He then kicks out Tarneja and his two minions Ashok and Priya and lets himself made a total fool of by Vinod and Shobha. As these two leave and Tarneja and his gang is still outside, the latter three then see that D'Mello is double-crossing them by taking a bigger bribe from another builder Ahuja and letting him make the bridges. This leads to a secret meeting being arranged between Tarneja and Ahuja in which they want to come to some sort of agreement regarding the bridges, only to find out that D'Mello has taken an even bigger bribe from a third party and letting them build the bridges. All this is recorded by Sudhir and Vinod, who goes there because he is in love with Shobha and knowing this, she is using him to do all her dangerous work.

         Tired by all this snooping around, Vinod and Sudhir decide to enter a photography competition to win the first prize of Rs. 5000 and take many pictures in park. In one of those pictures which has a pet monkey holding a mirror, they see a reflection of Tarneja shooting someone. When they go back to investigate, they find traces of blood and a cuff link but no dead body. Soon Tarneja opens a bridge and dedicates it to D'Mello who has seemingly died due to a deadly disease. There, at the foundation of the bridge, they find the other cuff link. They dig up that spot and find the shot D'Mello in a coffin. They take pictures of this and decide to get them published and the murder investigated. They are very happy at the thought that the good will triumph and the evil punished. Except due to the loud and shaky local trains that pass by that place, the coffin skids away without them noticing and they think that they've lost it. They go to Shobha with the pictures and she decides to use them to blackmail Tarneja. Meanwhile the drunk Ahuja finds the coffin and thinks its a broken car and brings it along with him.Vinod and Sudhir then realise that Shobha is as corrupt as the rest of them and decide to expose the truth themselves.What then follows is one of the best third acts I have ever seen.

        Vinod and Sudhir find the body of D'Mello at Ahuja's house and everyone, including the new Municipal Commissioner Shrivastav, begins chasing them. First they all enter an area with lots of Muslim women in their Burkhas and they all disguise themselves too and that leads to a lot of confusion. And finally they take refuge in a theatre which is playing the famous Sanskrit epic poem Mahabharata. Now if anyone does watch this film and is not familiar with Mahabharata, I would suggest them to read up on it a bit because them the humour of the scene will pass over their heads. Also the romantic tale between  Mughal prince Salim and the courtesan Anarkali as in this scene they have a sudden mash-up between the two. The actors get bumped of the stage as Vinod, Sudhir, Tarneja and gang and Shobha and Ahuja come on the stage instead to kidnap the dead D'Mello dressed up as Draupadi. It's an absolute laughter riot that ensues and the police come to break all of this up. The ending though is amongst the most realistic and as a result saddest and scariest ones I have ever seen and that truly leaves an impression on anyone who views it.

         The film was written by critically acclaimed screenwriter Sudhir Mishra and the director Kundan Shah. It was produced by the National Film Development Corporation of India, which tries to make films that aren't exactly blockbuster material but give a real message to people. I think Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro is the first true Bollywood cult hit as the followers believe in it now as much as they believed in it in 1983 when it had released. It is really the story that matters. Through the various hilarious turn of events and comical characters, we get that Indian society has become so horribly corrupt and apathetic that the common man really does not stand a chance unless he too joins the devious crowds. And not just India, I'm pretty sure that other countries too deal with such kind of things. 

         Don't even get me started on the acting! Naseeruddin Shah, who plays Vinod, is one of the best actors anywhere. His Vinod is simple and forthright and gullible and so sweet. Ravi Baswani plays Sudhir and being a comedic actor, he really embraced the slightly mundane features of his character. Om Puri is another fine actor and he plays the hilarious drunk Ahuja. Others like Satish Kaushik who plays Ashok and Satish Shah who plays the DOA D'Mello are famous comedic actors in Indian films and television. Pankaj Kappor, who played the dishonest Tarneja actually went on to star in the hugely popular comedy television series called Office Office which actually exposes the various kinds of corrupt practices in Indian offices. I knew all of this. What surprised me the most were the female characters. Neena Gupta, who plays the slutty Priya is famous for her very conservative Indian-woman roles, and to see her in this avataar was quite something. And I had never even heard of Bhakti Barve who plays the artful Shobha. She was fantastic, so nurturing and venomous at the same time. I think I liked her, Naseeruddin Shah, Ravi Baswani and Om Puri the best. 

       It is a commentary on the trusting nature of the common man and while I loved the coffin-and-Ahuja scene and the Mahabharata -meets-Mughal-e-azam scene a great deal, there were a couple of scenes which showed Vinod and Sudhir singing the famous Indian patriotic song "Hum Honge Kaamyaab" which is the literal Hindi translation of "We Shall Overcome" and that always filled me with such pride and also grief for the falsity of the claim in today's world, that they too left an indelible mark on my mind.

    It would be fantastic if more people watch's such an iconic film.

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