A few minutes into Aadish Keluskar’s Jaoon Kahan Bata Ae Dil, the couple in the film (Rohit Kokate, Khushboo Upadhyay) are walking down Marine Drive. What’s new, one might ask? It is the same place Amitabh Bachchan and Moushumi Chatterjee romanced to “Rimjhim Girey Saawan” in Manzil (1979); in Wake Up Sid (2009), it is where Ranbir Kapoor and Konkona Sensharma escape to from their boring college farewell party. Young lovers in the city… epiphanic moments… it’s one of the Bombay love story cliches. But unlike the monsoons, or at night, when the Queen’s Necklace lights up, Keluskar shoots his Marine Drive scene under the harsh afternoon sun. They sweat, cars honk, as they walk and talk. They will go from one place to another, take a cab ride to an Irani cafe, go to a movie theatre, spend time at the beach, and the film will follow them through the day (fluid camerawork by Amey V Chavan). It’s a conversational, talk-heavy film. If this sounds like Before Sunrise then you are in for a rude shock. Jaoon Kahan… is about the disintegration of the relationship of this nameless couple, and the unexpected, extreme turns it takes to reach there.

The conversations advance the plot; they range everything from jobs, to the political atmosphere in the country, to her roommate. Things aren’t the way they are in the movies, Kokate’s character says, and time and again we are reminded of the difference between reality and cinema. References to Hindi films abound: it’s not just the lyrical title that refers to a Mukesh song from Chhoti Bahen (1959), or the old film songs Upadhyay’s character listens to. When a taxi-driver struggles to remember the word kick, he tries to arrive at it through the Salman Khan movie.

Jaoon Kahaan… doesn’t just want to be a ‘realistic’ film, it wants to fill this difference between reality and the Hindi cinema version of reality. Without any filter, it wants to show everything that our movies have shied away from.

Jaoon Kahan…’s preoccupation with films becomes clearer in one particular scene, which comes around midway. They’ve gone to watch a film in a theatre. She is trying to concentrate on the film, but he is finding it hard to keep it in his pants when he spirals into one of his freewheeling rants, about how our films never say anything about our lives: they never name political parties; they don’t talk about or show sex; there is censorship, which has reached a new low in the past few years. All the while, something fascinating happens: she (reluctantly) gives him a blowjob in the theatre; he talks politics, names both the BJP and the Congress; and he says one of the crudest lines I’ve heard in all of Hindi cinema (Your cunt creamed in the taxi. Now what about my dick? which sounds worse in Hindi, as in the film).

In this scene itself Jaoon Kahan… breaks all the taboos it mentions, checks all the boxes. It also shows the self-awareness that it’ll perhaps never get a theatrical release in India, and will have to rely on such a film festival as MAMI or an online platform (like Humaramovie, which has produced the film). It doesn’t just want to be ‘realistic’, it wants to fill this difference between reality and the Hindi cinema version of reality. Without any filter, it wants to show everything that our movies have shied away from. What better setting to drive home this point than a movie theatre?

It’s difficult to describe the kind of relationship Kokate and Upadhyay’s characters share; it’s a kind of emotional S&M. Although he does most of the talking, the film is from her point-of-view. He is a nihilistic, borderline sociopathic guy who does horrible things but in some ways is more free-minded than her (Kokate, a regular collaborator with Keluskar, in his way of speaking and mannerisms, reminds of a young Nana Patekar). She is tender and naive, and allows him to toy with her emotions and her body (Upadhyay brings a lived-in believability to her character). He pushes her to the edge, till things spiral out of control.

There is a sequence in the hotel room, where they go to have sex, which is sickeningly disturbing. Keluskar increasingly amplifies the shock quotient. Something extreme happens in the climax. You wonder if the director made this choice simply because he didn’t know what to do with the ending. But apply its revisionist attitude to the situation and it falls in place. In its final act, Jaoon Kaha… becomes a sort of feminist wish fulfilment, underlined by a mad dance performed to another oldie. ‘This is real life, not a film,’ Kokate’s character tries to convince her. He couldn’t have been any more wrong.

Watch the trailer here:

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