Sujoy Ghosh's Jaane Jaan offers moments of intrigue but lacks originality; his attempt at reimagining a classic story with Kareena Kapoor, Jaideep Ahlawat, and Vijay Varma falls short of expectations.
Kareena Kapoor Khan plays a single mother who becomes embroiled in a criminal inquiry with the help of her neighbour, a talented math teacher (Jaideep Ahlawat), and the dogged investigation of a police officer (Vijay Varma).
Three extremely talented actors from different schools of thought about the acting world come together in Sujoy Ghosh's Jaane Jaan. The filmmaker himself is a unique persona who, in the past two decades, went from creating a musical film to deep diving into the thriller genre. Jaane Jaan, the film based on the bestselling Japanese novel Devotion of Suspect X by Keigo Higashino, is not something you might have not seen onscreen.
You have seen it in different languages since starting the journey a decade ago. Yes, we are talking about Jeethu Joseph's inspiration for one of the best films ever made, Drishyam (2013), which has been remade in so many languages now. So what makes Jaane Jaan different, if any? Well, it's a new take on a new set-up, where the place makes the story more mystical.
The story is quite simple and doesn't waste time or wait until the second half to show that a perfect crime has been committed or where the investigation takes a turn.
Jaane Jaan starts with Naren, a strict math teacher, being neighbours with Maya D'Souza and her teenage daughter Tara. She has eloped from Mumbai in a set-up where, let's say, Simran/Rosy from Talaash is living in a parallel universe and saving herself from the murky world. However, the ghosts of the past come uninvited, which leads the mother and daughter to take matters into their own hands.
However, the math teacher is exactly as he looks—a mysterious, no-nonsense person who keeps all his feelings to himself. He is a stalker who is a neighbour, and like one of Maya's friends says, "Sooraj ki tarah roz nikalta hai Maya ko dekhne."
This goes on for years, where he silently falls for Maya and keeps building these imaginary bonds with her, but in reality, he doesn't even have the guts to talk to her, despite sharing a wall. But things take a drastic turn when a crime is committed and he becomes an accessory to it by taking the overall charge.
As mentioned above, we know what has happened, as most of us have seen Drishyam. A police officer comes in and starts an investigation, only to realise that it's a small town and the obvious suspects are also limited. So Karan Anand from Mumbai Police enters this Kalimpong world, only to realise it's small but not shallow.
The unfolding gets intriguing to an extent, but we eventually have to run out of patience to know this story's new conclusion. Sujoy's attempt to make this story work well in the beginning and towards the end. There's no novelty factor except Jaideep showing his incredible prowess as an actor, Kareena's downplay leaving an impressive mark, and Vijay being a good cop with a repetition of "hot padosan" and imagining getting intimate with Maya. The Dahaad man might take time to leave, as Sujoy kept that flavour intact in Lust Stories 2 and now in Jaane Jaan, although minimalistically.
Jaane Jaan is Drishyam with loopholes, and mainly it comes with the characters rather than the perfect crime. Maya and Tara bring normalcy into their lives; however, the pretentiousness becomes so much reality that there's hardly any fear shown in their faces. Because the dramatic effects are so underwhelming, it gives the feeling that they did not commit any crime at all. The constant "teacher sab thik kar denge" makes them believe the stress is all gone and will never bite them back.
Kareena Kapoor Khan in drama is a genre I enjoy the most, where her eyes and actions do most of the talking. The actor excels at it incredibly, and it feels like she is going to be the showstealer. However, not to blame the actor, the character becomes a little weaker as the story progresses, and it seems like she is hardly there in the second half of the story.
When this happens, the only actor who emerges as the best of the lot is Jaideep Ahlawat. From the look to the character arc to the fabulous performance, it's his show all the way. He uplifts the climax entirely with his monologue, and if Jaideep looks straight into the camera or screams abruptly, you might skip a beat. And it doesn't come with the intention to scare the viewers, but deep dives into the mental health conversation that gets on the surface.
Vijay, on the other hand, is a soft character, but the actor's comic timing is impeccable, with deadpan humour that has jokes, which lands well. In one scene, when Naren asks him how he knew he was a math teacher, Karan replies that everyone has been saying "Good morning, teacher," to you like it's some school attendance. This might not have made you laugh, but the scene will. His scenes with both Kareena and Jaideep bring out a great deal of chemistry, and it's a pure treat to watch that.
Sujoy Ghosh, with cinematographer Avik Mukhopadhyay, brings so many close-up shots that you might feel your screen is zoomed in, but it's actually a deliberate move to bring out the raw emotions, even if it's slightly uncomfortable.
Jaane Jaan is a flawed film with moments that are enjoyable, but definitely not with the character arcs given. The slow-burn narrative fails to work when the twist is already known and the revelation takes time to come to life on screen. The false narrative of the recreation of the infamous scene from Drishyam is done and dusted, and you just have to sail through it.
However, editor Urvashi Saxena does a fine job of cutting the film, with the storytelling being compact and not overstaying its welcome.
Like Sujoy Ghosh mentions, Jaane Jaan is indeed a love story, but the impact of it comes only in the last few minutes and during the course of the film.
Jaane Jaan presents an engaging narrative, although it doesn't fully capitalise on its potential. It tries to carve its own niche as a competent thriller but works only works to an extent.