I went to watch this movie with a lot of trepidation. It was every thing I professed to be too jaded to enjoy. It was a teen romance, (I am too old to enjoy juvenile girl-meets-boy, girl-falls-in-love-with-boy, families-protest, boy-and-girl-elope ....... romances), had a cast, none of whom were familiar, except the actors who were enacting the roles of the parents, it was by a new director, and ever since Aditya Chopra fed me DDLJ, I have been wary of watching debutant directors. And then, Farhan Akhtar (Dil Chahta Hai), Sreeram Raghavan (Ek Haseena Thi), Homi Adjania (Being Cyrus), Vishal Bharadwaj (Makdee), Aamir Khan (Taare Zameen Par) - well, they had made me reassess a directorial debut. Moreover, I knew Abbas Tyrewala from his writings on Sulekha.com .
Besides, after Lagaan, and Taare Zameen Par, I had come to think of Aamir Khan Productions as a production house that was synonymous with intelligent commercial films. Therefore, I shelved my doubts and decided to enjoy my first outing to a theatre in a long time.
I must say I have never enjoyed myself more! The film is a love story alright, but the treatment is definitely 'different'. (What an overused word that is!) The story introduces you to a rag-tag collection of boys and girls in their final years at college. Normal teenagers, all, except they have nicknames like Bombs, Rotlu, Rats and Meow. (Even that is not as irritating as it sounds.) The theme is as old as the hills - boy and girl are friends. Well, they are actually in love, though they do not know it themselves. And every one else knows it - their friends, their parents, the heroine's moody brother et al. Where the debutant director scores is in convincing us that we are watching something fresh and different. Where the movie scores is in its refreshing dialogues, ordinary, leg-pulling, 'normal' dialogues - between Jai and Aditi, between Jai and Meghna, between the friends...
This is a film that is supported by a stellar supporting cast - Jayant Kripalani, Anooradha Patel, Ratna Pathak Shah, Paresh Rawal, Arbaaz Khan, Sohail Khan, and above all, Naseeruddin Shah, in a cameo so perfect, that one wished for more. The first three named brought back memories of the heydays of Doordarshan, when we had such lovely comedies such as 'Idhar Udhar, 'Mr and Mrs' etc - and where did Anooradha Patel disappear off to? As Peachy and Pumpkin, uber-cool parents, she and Jayant Kripalani carried off their roles with panache. Witness the scene where they want to talk to Jai about his marriage to Aditi, and he thinks he is being interviewed for a job.
Ratna Pathak Shah was deliciously goofy as the airhostess in Idhar Udhar. She is incredibly humorous in her role as the hero's mother, especially when she holds irritated conversations with her long-dead husband - Naseeruddin Shah, in a cameo, which should win him every supporting actor award there is. Her comic timing makes you wish there were roles which would tempt this fine actress back to the big screen. Paresh Rawal runs Shah (Mr) a close second. As Waghmare, the police inspector who is Savitri's (Ratna Pathak Shah) bête noire, he reminds you that, while he can ham with the best of them, (think of all those horrible Priyadarshan movies!) he is really an actor par excellence. Sohail and Arbaaz Khan are a revelation - they come in, and you are left wondering, for a moment, why they are there in the movie at all, and hoping against hope that the director is not going to resort to gags, just to pull the movie along. They have a comic timing that is perfectly set up to add to the madness of the climax.
The group of friends - ah, what can one say about them? It was wonderful to see 'normal' kids - the group could have been any group from any campus across the country. 'Jiggy' and "Shaleen' were inspired casting, and the stereotypical gujju boy came across as a loving ode, played to perfection by a shy, bumbling Nirav Mehta. Sugandha Garg as Shaleen, the one without any romantic entanglements, was brilliant as the one person who is part of the group, yet objective enough to see everything that is going on around her.
Prateik Babbar's is a role that begged to be lengthened - that of Amit, Aditi's brother. In a scene after he has taken Aditi's fiance to his room, an amazed "But I have never seen his room", bursts out of Aditi's mouth. It is countered by her father who mutters, "Neither have I, and I paid for it!" The humour in the dialogue only underscores how alienated Amit is from his family. Meghna (Manjari Phadnis) is another complex character - someone who prefers to look at the world through rose-tinted glasses to hide from the unpalatable truths of her life. These are interesting characters, who beg for their own place in the spotlight. It would have been interesting to see what the director could have done with them.
All this, and I have not yet come to the 'hero' or the 'heroine' of this story. And that is because Jai and Aditi are not really hero and heroine material. Imran Khan and Genelia D'Souza are 'different'. Really. Where else would you find a hero, whose first scene in the movie shows him sleeping at his desk? OR who wears a saree, so he can get his friend to smile a little, if not laugh? He walks away from every fight, is self-deprecating, and does not care whether he is taunted or not. In any case, the heroine makes up for her hero's lack of gumption. Genelia's Aditi is full of spunk, and she is willing to roll up her sleeves and get her hands dirty if need be. She is the quintessential rich, spoiled brat, but one so cheerfully unconscious of her wealth that it is not only taken for granted by her friends, the audience does not think much of it either.
It is interesting to see how things change between the two, how the relationship progresses from 'friends' who cannot live without each other, to that of a couple who realise that underneath it all, they really cannot live without each other! The romance, unfortunately, is the weakest part of the script. Jai had more chemistry with Meghna than he did with Aditi.
I liked the way the movie progressed - from the repetitive, offkey rendition of मेरा तुझसे का पहले था नाता कोई, to the way the story unfolds through a narrative structure. Like Mala, the outsider, who is willy-nilly gathered into the folds of the story, as the narration proceeds, we, the audience are hooked as well, till the mad journey culminates in that most clichéd of clichés - the airport climax. But, oh, what an absolutely roller-coaster ride of madness that is - and that directorial touch is what saves it from truly being a cliché. By the time, the sentimental part of it is over and done with, (and even that is leavened by the sense of madcap humour that runs through the movie) you can't help coming out with a relieved smile that it all ended happily for Rats and his Meow.
I am still gurgling with laughter as I remember bits and snatches of dialogue. For a more detailed analysis, please read my favourite review of this movie.
Photo Credit: Imran's and Genelia's photo sourced from the film's official website - www.Jaanetu.com