Synopsis – A 40 year-old playboy’s life turns upside down when he comes to know that he has a 20 something year-old daughter.
My Take – As evident from the Hindi films released in the past few years, male dominated story-lines are going through a revolutionary stage, where the focus has shifted from their display of masculine pride to their common yet secretive issues of vanity or fertility. Hence a tale of an Indian playboy, way past his prime, still not looking to settle down for a happily ever after also strikes as a kind of novel concept.
In a matter of perfect casting, Saif Ali Khan fills in this role. Despite being associated with a variety of other films over the past decade, Saif Ali Khan continues to remain synonymous with urban rom-coms, where he often played a trendy, uber-cool, suave and metrosexual guy with elegance. With films like Dil Chahta Hai, Hum Tum, Kal Ho Naa Ho, Salaam Namaste, Love Aaj Kal, and Cocktail, consolidating and cementing his status in this genre.
However, what makes things different this time around is that he is cast in an age-appropriate role, where the same dude from the previously mentioned films is now dying his hair, wearing glasses to see clearly, and coming to terms with a mid-life crisis while holding on to a colorful past. And thankfully director Nitin Kakkar (Notebook, Filmistaan) allows him to play his trademark characteristics with aplomb, in a film that is amusing, sharp, witty and contemporary, all at once.
Here, director Nitin Kakkar handles the subject with utmost maturity and ensures that there are enough wild-whacky moments to entertain despite the seriousness of the unconventional film. While the second half of the film is not as tempting or intoxicating as the first hour, the overall experience remains immensely likeable, and hence should appeal well to its target audience.
A remake of the 2010 Argentinian film Igaulita A Mi, the story follows Jaswinder “Jazz” Singh (Saif Ali Khan), a 40-something party animal who believes that any kind of commitment, especially marriage, is a death sentence. He works with his brother Dimpy (Kumud Mishra) as a real estate broker in London, spends his nights compulsively partying and picking up women at a nightclub owned by his best friend Rocky (Chunky Pandey), and the rest of time spends preaching his misguided philosophy to Rhea (Kubbra Sait), his hairdresser.
However his life takes a sudden turn when he meets Tia (Alaya F.), a young woman who agrees to go home with him, and drops a bomb that she may be the daughter he never knew about, a result of chance encounter he had with her mother, Ananya (Tabu), in Amsterdam years ago. While Jazz grapples with the possibility of his life changing forever, yet another curve ball is thrown is his way when he finds out that his newly discovered 21-year-old daughter is also pregnant. Hereby forcing the man-child to choose between his much loved freedom and his responsibility as a father and soon to be grandfather.
The story is primarily meant to work as feel-good fun film that delves into the subject of generation gap without getting too heavy about it and director Kakkar’s treatment works well in this context, as it sets up a sweet father-daughter drama riding humor that ably balances witticism and slapstick.
Right from the first scene, the film establishing Jazz’s character’s with Saif‘s iconic song Ole Ole to underscore the theme of an aging man clinging to his youth, as we are shown his insecurities, fears, and strengths in a well-drawn out arc. Jazz is a vain egoist who shirks responsibility and refuses to accept the inevitable, and the film delivers Jazz his just desserts without making him, or, us, choke, hereby making the first half fun, with snarky humor and well-placed one-liners peppering the fast-paced story.
Although the film is credits the original Argentinian film, writers Hussain Dalal and Abbas Dalal do not shy away from mashing up other films from the genre, for example, Mama Mia, where the mother reveals any one of three men could be her daughter’s father. Yet, undeniably, the father-daughter relationship here is the pivot, rather cute, uncommon and above all heart-warming. A father telling his daughter that she is his first love, well pure emotions can’t get better than this.
The film also works because the characters are so true to life and identifiable that you can’t help but relate to the issue. The icing on the cake is, undoubtedly, the execution of the film and the shot compositions.
At the onset, the screenplay may give you the feeling that it’s all gloss and no soul but the film catches you slowly, but firmly and doesn’t leave you till the end.
However, it is the second half where the film begins to falter, as it slips into predictable tropes and convenient plot devices. For example, the property deal seemed like an excuse to introduce further drama between Tia and Jazz, and does not fit in smoothly in the otherwise breezy 115-minute duration.
Also for all its cool quotient, the story-line mostly prefers staying within the limits of what’s safe. It picks a few interesting topics as commitment and value of love in the new age, and motherhood for an unwed young woman, but mostly uses these as tools to push forward the story and little else.
While Jazz struggles to accept the responsibility of being a parent (and grandparent), everyone around him seems to be surprisingly, unconvincingly okay with the sudden introduction of a pregnant daughter including his traditional, Punjabi parents. I do understand that the film admirably avoids being judgmental about anything or anyone, but it also fails to take a stand. Nevertheless, it is the performances which keep you hooked till the end.
As one would expect, Saif Ali Khan fits into his character fluently and leaves a deep-seated impression. He is outstanding in both emotional and light moments. His comic timing has rarely been better, and he is equally convincing when it is finally time to wise up. Alaya F, pitches in a confident performance despite being a debutante. She holds her own confidently and displays a natural charm, which with experience could prove to be a certain advantage. A combination of sass and innocence, she is certainly a talent to watch out for.
Tabu makes sure that not a second of her limited screen time goes to waste. Kubbra Sait appears very confident and performance-wise, she is spot on. In supporting roles, Farida Jalal and Kumud Mishra are a delight, however, Chunky Pandey and Dante Alexander are wasted. On the whole, ‘Jawaani Jaaneman’ is a light-hearted comedy that is familiar, engaging and funny.
Directed – Nitin Kakkar
Rated – NR
Run Time – 115 minutes