Friday, July 04, 2003

thoDii mastii...thoDii yaarii...thoDaa pyaar...jhanakaar

Finally caught Sujoy Ghosh's Jhankaar Beats. Strongly reminiscent of Hrishikesh Mukherjee in the domestic approachability of the characters, the film's key strength is the talented and hugely underrrated Rahul Bose. He is a wild scream on wheels with perfect comic timing all through the film -- he even gets a lot of the film's best lines. Although the film was largely interpreted as an attempt at a tribute to the late R D Burman, just like Dil Vil Pyar Vyar (DVPV), it would be unfair to describe it so simply. The film deals with a triad of relationships: Deep (Sanjay Suri, splendidly better than his previous uncomfortable performances) happily married to expecting wife Shanti (the ever vivacious Juhi Chawla), and their daughter Muskaan, or as Rishi (Rahul Bose) refers to her, moose khan, shah rukh's little sister; Rishi and Nikki (a mostly bearable but still lumpy-looking Rinke Khanna) resorting to divorce as a way to solve their domestic squabbles; Indraneil (the often grating Shayan Munshi) trying to tell Preeti (the unbearable little stick called Riya Sen, purely serving as ogle material) that he loves her. These lives revolve about other elements in the universe: a local talent competition called Jhankaar Beats that Deep and Rishi have been lucking out on for the last two years and hope to win this time, a newly-wed couple, a deadline for a catchphrase for a prestigious advertising campaign for a condom manufacturer (a splendid piece of work by stalwart Dinyar Contractor). Oh and did I mention that Rishi and Deep are RD Burman fans? Right from treating his Khar residence as a temple to adorning their practice room with RD memorabilia and the fortunate coincidence that their initials meld to R. D..

There are several inevitables in the film: we know the guys will win. We know Neil is going to get his girl. What makes the film an enduringly entertaining experience is our journey to these foregone conclusions. Sujoy Ghosh does not rub in the RD Burman tribute bits: they are simple enough to be believable (although some reviewers squirmed at the references to the late Burman as "Boss". Pity). The very Pancham-esque title song is underplayed during the cool opening titles (simple text in three colours: yellow, white, red) and only surfaces in its full glory over the closing credits. And although I haven't seen DVPV, I wager that I won't enjoy that as much as I did this film. I preferred Vishal-Shekhar's light popsy songs which incorporated RD Burman references to DVPV's summary appropriation of RDB's old songs (and to hear Babul Supriyo sing an old Burman classic is aurally tragic enough!). For RD Burman fans, this film is highly recommended, if only for the wonderful digs at Sholay and drop-hat references to Burman trivia (and I mean trivia, not general knowledge). Then there's Archana Puran Singh's marvellous little role as the head of the rival advertising agency: Careful viewers will note that she does not say a word in the whole film!

The film has other delightful bits that serve to embellish the proceedings, but my favourite element is the inclusion of the rarely heard second version of Saagar Kinaare by Lata (seen here in flashback, used as a wooing device).

Most people would classify this in the Dil Chahta Hai genre of films. Although apt since it deals with gen-X (or gen-Y) indian youth, it is an unfair generalization. DCH was a saga of the travails of the upper-class (how many of us could just go to Australia to recover from the wounds of love?). Needless to mention, Jhankaar Beats escapes succumbing to the SSH (Sagging Second Half) syndrome. Wonder what Sujoy Ghosh will come up with next...

Deepa Gumaste (DG) in her review of the movie for Rediff seems to have got it all wrong. Perhaps, as one of the followup comments suggest, she has seen way too many bad Bollywood products to discern the goodness in a film like Jhankaar Beats. Although I am an RD Burman fan, I don't think I would be so biased as to like any half-butted tribute film. JB isn't one of these. DG seems to have issues with the focal point of the film: But wasn't Jhankaar Beats supposed to be another paean to R D Burman and not a family-planning commercial?. No Ms Gumaste, I'm sorry to say, you just didn't get it. The guys at Mahiram seem to have grasped the essence of the film, though. And that last link also provides information on the missing connection between JB and DVPV.

And there's the undying funny-in-the-past-and-gratingly-monotonous-these-days acerbic take from "I'm trying to be funny" Khalid Mohammed has his take on the film. With a title like "Oh that dhinchak jhinchak", you can be sure he wasn't too happy with it. He's been writing for the Midday a lot lately -- I guess the TOI got wise (after the jaw-dropping sin of going dumb and mainstream) and said their goodbyes. To quote him "Sorry to sigh but film making also requires the ability to desist from cracking in-jokes and batting out infantile gags which go zoook over the normal viewer's head.". Yeah, right! Just like Fiza -- so devoid of in-jokes (and life) and so full of "educated" filmmaking, it did so well [sic] critically and box-office-wise. Sorry KM, you goofed that time, so have another bucketful of humble pie and catch a rerun of Andaaz, to figure out where you went wrong (described as an NP-complete problem in theoretical computer science). {official Jhankaar Beats page}

ultimate coda: And yes, Ken Ghosh's paen Generation Next {quoted verbatim} Ishq Vishk gets more thumbs down after this. The bottomline (after all these years) is still the same: get a story, get a plot, make sure you don't have SSH (Sagging Second Half) issues, get some decent performers, and if you really value film-making, prefer actors (aka people who can actually act!) instead of stars (hams with inflated awareness of box-office needs) and models (vehicles of oglefest cleavage, dumb drop-dead looks, and terrible HINDI).

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