Director: Amin Hajee
Writer: Amin Hajee
Cinematography: Arun Prasad
Edited by: Ballu Saluja
Starring: Kunal Kapoor, Amyra Dastur
Streaming on: Amazon Prime Video
While the world tuned in to watch the long-awaited Friends reunion, I tried in vain to un-watch an unofficial Lagaan-and-friends reunion that nobody needed. Here’s some context. Koi Jaane Na is directed by Amin Hajee, better known as the character Bagha from Lagaan. The film has a less-than-special appearance by Lagaan hero Aamir Khan, who opens the film with a jazzy item number with Elli AvrRam at a nightclub called “Ego”. Preceding the opening credits is a nice photograph of Hajee and Khan with their families on screen, celebrating their bond with the Kishore Kumar words “Tere Jaisa Yaar Kahan”. The ‘special thanks’ section lists Lagaan co-writer Sanjay Dayma and director Ashutosh Gowariker. There are cameos by actors Aditya Lakhia (Kachra), and Raj Zutshi (Ismail) in the most Raj Zutshi role possible. It also has Chak De’s Vidya Malavade – also Dayma’s wife – as well as the director’s brother Karim Hajee playing pointless supporting characters. It is cut by Lagaan editor Ballu Saluja…you get the gist. This is essentially a sentimental quarter-bar session parading as a movie.
And what a movie it is. Koi Jaane Na is the kind of deluded and fetishised “writer” tale that belongs right up (down) there with infamous turkeys like Shabd. Poor Kunal Kapoor stars as Kabir Kapoor, an acclaimed author whose evil publisher (and ex-wife) demands he return his INR 50 lakh (!) advance because he’s way behind on his new manuscript. Chetan Bhagat has nothing on the chap. Kabir is also a motivational YouTube star: his first book was titled “Do it…You can…” or something of the sort. Broke Kabir escapes to his cosy Panchgani bungalow to finish his draft, but ends up punching a bag, burning paper, screaming and breaking pencils in an angsty writers-block anthem instead. On the way he also meets an annoying backpacker, Suhana, who sings and dances in his jeep because travelling in Hindi cinema cannot exist otherwise. They start dating, in a song that looks like a musical advertisement for an adventure-sport company. He also is the chief guest at a school where he advises kids to unleash their inner beast in order to become successful writers: “Don’t listen to your good side”. Oh, but there’s more.
It’s soon revealed that Kabir in fact leads a double life. He’s been ghost-writing these steamy detective novels featuring a fictional vigilante-killer called Zaraan Khan (“the one who breaks the law to uphold it”, it seems). Zaraan Khan is a best-selling franchise commissioned by some underworld gangsters (Khans also), and Kabir actually method-writes: he is a master of disguise, infiltrating the streets and drug cartels so that he can “feel” the darkness before writing stories about it: the equivalent of me putting myself on a sinking ship in the middle of the ocean in order to authentically review Titanic. A Goan hustler named Ricky Rosario (Karim Hajee) uncovers his ghost-writing secret and threatens to expose Kabir, only to end up stabbed in the eye by a hooded copy-cat killer. Who is this killer? I don’t care, but the film seems to. Other sideys die, a Maharashtrian cop (Ashwini Kalsekar) suspects that imaginative Kabir is the culprit, a mortified Atul Kulkarni makes a red-herring cameo, and the plot turns into a laughably poor imitation of a bad Abbas-Mustan movie.
I am in constant awe of the way veteran Bollywood writers perceive book-writing. Typewriters, whiskey and dead bodies jostle for space in almost every frame. It is so divorced from reality – or even from pulp-fiction for that matter – that it’s hard to believe Hajee co-wrote Gowariker’s best film, Swades. But then he is also credited with the penning of the Vikram Bhatt oeuvre (1920, Dangerous Ishhq, Haunted 3D) – and it’s not so hard to believe anymore. I’ll stop wasting your time, even if the film wasted more than 125 minutes of mine. In short, Koi Jaane Na is unspeakably awful and unnecessary, and appears in Lagaan’s 20th anniversary year: an irony so twisted that it could have been a better premise for this movie.