Sujoy Ghosh’s benchmark with “Kahaani” is hard to match, evident in his subsequent directorial efforts. Despite high hopes raised by the “Jaane Jaan” trailer, the film fails to live up to expectations and the intrigue it promised.
Set in the picturesque town of Kalimpong, “Jaane Jaan” narrates the tale of Mrs D’Souza, portrayed by Kareena Kapoor Khan and her family. This includes her daughter, Tara, her husband, Ajit Mhatre, played by Saurabh Sachdeva, and the enigmatic neighbour who adds an eerie dimension to the narrative, Naren, portrayed by Jaideep Ahlawat. The plot further unfolds with the introduction of Karan Anand, a diligent police investigator embodied by Vijay Varma.
The heart of the story revolves around a single, remarkable night that forever alters the course of their lives.
The director of “Kahaani” teams up with the promising trio of Kareena Kapoor, Jaideep Ahlawat, and Vijay Varma in a mystery thriller inspired by a renowned Japanese novel. It sounds like a recipe for success, doesn’t it? However, the actual execution of this project leaves much to be desired. Sujoy Ghosh faced high expectations, given his recent misses, and the stakes were even higher with the release of his Hindi adaptation of “Suspect X.” The trailer set an intriguing tone, but does Ghosh manage to deliver on it? The answer is a mixed one. While he succeeds in some aspects, he also falls short in others.
This film boldly wears its literary origins like a badge of honour, proudly proclaiming its roots in the internationally acclaimed Japanese mystery novel, “The Devotion Of Suspect X” by Keigo Higashino. From the title sequence to the casual conversations that drop the name ‘Suspect X,’ it unabashedly acknowledges its status as an adaptation. It’s not the first Indian film to embark on such a path; earlier, a Tamil movie called “Kolaigaran,” starring Vijay Antony, ventured into a similar territory. What sets this apart is Sujoy Ghosh’s ingenious fusion of elements from both the book and the previous film, injecting his unique style to craft a distinct cinematic experience.
While you might draw comparisons to “Drishyam,” given its source material from 2005, Ghosh’s signature touch permeates every frame, reshaping the way we perceive Jeethu Joseph’s masterpiece. Ghosh’s non-linear storytelling weaves an intricate narrative, offering moments like Naren and Karan’s conversation about the case, interspersed with flashbacks of their Jujutsu matches, creating a chess-like dance of words and actions.
The masterful cinematography of Avik Mukhopadhyay, known for his work in “Pink,” “October,” and “Sardar Udham,” breathes life into the gloomy, mist-covered landscape of Kalimpong. The fog mirrors the narrative’s enigmatic nature, shrouding it in a captivating aura. Kudos to Jaideep’s makeup artist for flawlessly capturing Naren’s pristine demeanor, adding a layer of authenticity to the character.
Ghosh ingeniously transforms this Japanese epic into a high-stakes game of “Raja, Rani, Chor, Sipahi,” where the lines between hero and villain blur so profoundly that you’ll find yourself questioning your own convictions as the second half unfolds.
However, the narrative, co-crafted by Ghosh and Raj Vasant, initially sparks curiosity and unfolds nicely, but unfortunately, it takes a downward trajectory, losing its focus along the way. Despite the on-screen unfolding of numerous events, including some gruesome details, the film fails to deliver the expected adrenaline rush that a murder mystery or thriller of this magnitude, boasting such a stellar cast, should provide. Furthermore, “Jaane Jaan” falls prey to excessive spoilers within its screenplay. For instance, an early flashback sequence reveals a major plot twist that could have been saved for the climax. Additionally, the story relies on several highly convenient coincidences that seem to exist merely for the sake of convenience, failing to effectively drive the narrative forward.
Sujoy Ghosh, renowned for his mastery in creating atmospheric and suspenseful narratives, as evidenced by the acclaim his work in ‘Kahaani’ has received, ventures into familiar suspense territory with ‘Jaane Jaan.’ While one cannot find fault with the screenplay or the direction, the unfolding events fail to immerse the audience deeply. Unlike ‘Drishyam,’ where viewers actively engaged with Georgekutty’s or his Bollywood counterpart Vijay Salgaonkar’s morally ambiguous decisions, in ‘Jaane Jaan,’ one merely observes the actions of Karan, Maya, and Naren from a distance.
Nonetheless, this detachment isn’t necessarily a drawback, as ‘Jaane Jaan’ manages to be quite engaging, even if it doesn’t reach the level of being truly captivating. The film maintains a deliberate pace that occasionally wavers but aligns well with the prevailing sombre atmosphere. The cinematography skillfully captures the bleakness of Kalimpong’s winters, yet it leaves one pondering why Ghosh chose this particular location. In many of his previous films, the setting of the city played a pivotal role, such as Kolkata in ‘Kahaani.’ However, in ‘Jaane Jaan,’ apart from a few passing references to momos and a scarcity of sunlight, Kalimpong seems to serve no significant narrative purpose. The story could have just as effectively been set in Mumbai without any notable impact on the plot.
However, the exceptional actors truly shine and succeed in keeping the audience engrossed. Kareena steps outside her comfort zone to portray a multifaceted character that exudes both immense strength and profound vulnerability. Her portrayal as a single mother adds depth to her character that resonates emotionally. Notably, in a scene where she performs the classic title track, she infuses a hint of sensuality without detracting from the storyline.
Then there’s Jaideep, who handles his scenes with unparalleled mastery. It’s genuinely intriguing to see if there’s anything this man cannot effortlessly and convincingly portray. In his role as a gifted math teacher, whose usual pastimes include observing his neighbours or seeking remedies for his premature balding, an inherent eccentricity and mischievousness define his character. Each time he graces the screen, you find yourself anticipating his next move.
“Jaane Jaan” offers an absorbing storyline, yet it falls short of fully exploiting its inherent potential. While it endeavours to establish itself as a proficient thriller, it only manages to achieve a certain level of success.