The New Voices run of films last September was the best season of Hindi films the channel has scheduled in the four years I’ve been watching them and introduced me to a range of entertaining and thought-provoking films.
It encompassed six films by new directors with not a single duff one among them (so no Mahal, Hydrabad Blues 2 or Mangel Panday from previous years). But it was Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na (translation: you might know it, you might not) that stole the show for me.
It’s basically a fun post-teen drama and an Aamir Khan production, with all the production values this implies from the producer/star of Laagan and Rang De Basanti.
But unlike either of those two (great) films, Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na eschews political or historical points to focus firmly on a coming of age tale.
The 2008 film is set in and around a Mumbai university and is a boy (Imran Khan’s Jai) meets girl (Aditi played by Genelia) story – though it’s of the boy meets girl, girl loses boy and ultimately they get back together at an airport variety.
In its accompanying introduction, director Abbas Tyrewalla says he had to write this reminiscence of his own university days when he did before too much time passed to do them justice.
His oversees a film with a very effective ‘story told in retrospect’ that’s complemented by a well-paced story arc.
The characterisation, while strongly focusing on Jai and Aditya, gives enough depth to the supporting cast to make it feel like an ensemble piece that just happens to have two leads.
Naturally it clings to some common aspirational norms of teen films. So of course a couple of friends have cars, but there’s much more to the story than such a comparison would lead you to expect.
There were a few times the film didn’t make the grade. Aditi jokingly writing “I’m gay” on Jai’s arm and Jai fooling two drunken guys hasseling a girl by lying to them that she has Aids, which actually had me wishing any other sexually-transmitted disease had been used for comic purpose.
Those incidents notwithstanding, overall the film was lots of fun. It opens with a tone deaf rendition of the title song that misled me into thinking the songs were not very memorable – I’ve since heard them on the radio and they came straight back to mind. Perhaps unsurprisingly I later found out the film is another with a soundtrack by AR Rahman, one of Bollywood’s most successful composers. (A taster of the music can be found at the film’s official website.)
Hindi films usually run to at least two and a half hours and, with a young family, I’m not exactly time-rich. So perhaps the best compliment I can pay Bollywood film is to want a second viewing. With Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na I’m already looking forward to seeing it for a third time in the not too distant future.