Film-companion-Jawani-Jaaneman-saif-ali-khan

Director: Nitin Kakkar

Cast: Saif Ali Khan, Tabu, Alaya F

A fleeting visual in Jawaani Jaaneman shows us Tia pushing her father Jazz in a pram on the streets of London. She’s a wise and warm 21-year-old. He is an immature and selfish 40-year-old. In case the role reversal isn’t obvious enough, he’s also sucking on a lollipop.

Jawaani Jaaneman is an official adaptation of the 2010 Argentinian comedy Igualita A Mi which means Just Like Me. Somewhere in it is a tender, funny story about parenting, growing up, the importance of family and what a character calls ‘old-school love.’ But director Nitin Kakkar only skims the surface. We get a glossy, touristy London brochure that showcases the bustling streets, the snazzy clubs and apartments and the good life – drinking, dancing, sex with no strings.  It’s the kind of film Saif Ali Khan was doing years ago – think Salaam Namaste or later Cocktail and Happy Ending.

Saif’s got great comic timing and in some scenes, he needs to do nothing – the eye-mask and tight rock band T-shirts are enough to make you smile. But the script doesn’t push the actor enough

In fact, Jawaani Jaaneman serves as a Saif flashback – it starts with him dancing to ‘Ole Ole’, a song he did in Yeh Dillagi in 1994 and moves to mid-career Saif. But it doesn’t exploit enough Saif 2.0 – the actor who has liberated himself from the box office and is doing some of his best work. You see some flashes – as Jazz, the middle-aged party boy, Saif isn’t afraid to look vulnerable, inept or just plain foolish. Jazz is a determined Lothario in full denial of his aging body – he doesn’t want anyone to figure out that his hair is dyed or that he needs glasses. Saif, who has played younger versions of Jazz in umpteen films, finds his essence with ease. Saif’s got great comic timing and in some scenes, he needs to do nothing – the eye-mask and tight rock band T-shirts are enough to make you smile. But the script doesn’t push the actor enough.

Jawaani Jaaneman is a tangled family drama about a man who routinely shirks his responsibilities – he wakes up at noon and on a good day, works for four hours – being thrust into parenthood. When Jazz discovers that he has a grown-up daughter who also happens to be pregnant, he goes from sexed-up bachelor to grandfather in an instant. The situation is both deliciously dramatic and hilarious. And there are some sparkling moments – watch out for a scene in which a woman shows up at Jazz’s doorstep in a housemaid’s outfit hoping to conclude the lusty exchange they started at a nightclub earlier. But Nitin and his dialogue writers – Hussain Dalal and Abbas Dalal – aren’t able to fully juice the material. The laughs aren’t frequent enough and the emotions don’t deepen until the second hour. Several characters are merely types.

Tabu, effortless as always, should’ve had better lines

So Tabu is the hippie earth mother and Kubbra Sait, the sensible friend who tells Jazz that a relationship between them won’t work because she’s his age and that’s not what he’s looking for. Which took me back to the 2014 Golden Globes ceremony in which hosts Tina Fey and Amy Poehler joked about the film Gravity; that it showed that George Clooney would rather float off into space than spend time with a woman his own age. Jazz has similar issues. The women in his life are all smarter than him but they aren’t fleshed out. Tabu, effortless as always, should’ve had better lines. Same for Kamlesh Gill – the terrific beeji from Vicky Donor – who plays Jazz’s landlord. It’s nice to see Farida Jalal back on screen after a gap – incredibly, she looks the same as she did twenty-five years ago in Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge and she exudes the same maternal warmth and exasperation.

The good news is that debutant Alaya F has a lovely, low-key charm. She doesn’t strain to make an impression and her unassuming presence centers the film.  She confidently holds her own against Saif and the moments between them have a genuine chemistry.

And yet, Jawaani Jaaneman doesn’t become more than the sum of its parts. I’m a big admirer of Nitin’s first film Filmistaan, in which he combined humor, pathos and depth with a skillful lightness. I wish Jawaani Jaaneman had delivered more.

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