Jawaani Jaaneman movie review: Saif Ali Khan is clearly having a blast.
Jawaani Jaaneman movie cast: Saif Ali Khan, Alaya F, Kubbra Sait, Kumud Mishra, Chunky Panday
Jawaani Jaaneman movie director: Nitin Kakkar
Jawaani Jaaneman movie rating: 2.5 stars
Jazz aka Jasvinder Singh is living it up in London town, alternating between being a near-broke broker and a cool swinger making moves on hot babes. He is single, and man, does he mingle. And then one fine evening, as he tries his trusty pick-up lines on a girl young enough to be his daughter, he learns that he is, in fact, a dad. Whoopsie.
Don’t worry, I am not giving anything away. If you watched the trailer, you will know that this is the nub of Jawaani Jaaneman, which deposits Saif Ali Khan back into his comfort zone, of the eternal playboy pushing desperately back at advancing middle-age and grey locks, whose revolving bedmates are the only high points of his bench-pressing, weight-lifting, booze-swilling bachelor life.
This familiar character which Khan has made his own (Ole ole, that song, pops up as a reminder of how long he’s been at it), is given something extra here: a ready-made daughter whom he didn’t know existed till she brings him down to earth with demands of a DNA test, locking him into reluctant paternity, and the potential softening of his edges. No question of him blowing her off permanently: this is a Bollywood movie filled with the usual suspects – daddyji, mummyji (Jalal), bhaiyya (Mishra) and bhabhi, so clearly Jazz has no choice but to embrace his new-found papa-hood.
There’s a thread justifying Jazz’s broker-hood, involving cockney-accented property dealers, panoramic vistas of the Thames, and booze-swilling old ladies unwilling to budge from their Hounslow apartments, which acts as buffer between the real deal: the growing awareness of the importance of ‘family values’ in a man who equates marriage with ‘death’’
Which just shows the struggle of even new-agey Bollywood when it starts to go down the free-wheeling money-for-nothing-sex-for-free route: it’s okay for a leading man (or, horrors, lady) to hanker after multiple sexual partners, but there needs to be a finiteness to it. Most importantly, there needs to be the recognition of just how empty an aging-singleton’s life is, at the end of the day. And a redemption.
Is this the movie’s way of bringing Jazz back into the family fold (bad boy turning into a responsible, nappy-changing man), or is this the character’s arc in the original source material? (Apparently, Jawaani is a remake of a Western rom-com, which is perhaps why it feels like a Holly-Bolly movie, in the way the characters speak). The post-interval whiff of moralizing finger-wagging makes Jawaani dip, as well as the many too-convenient dispatching of potentially thorny problems: there are contrivances here which don’t all ring true. There’s also a scene with racist overtones: in a movie which is trying to strike a non-judgemental gong for babies out of wedlock, it is off-putting.
Till the film focuses on Jazz and his pursuit of hedonism, it is fun. Jazz is fun. Saif Ali Khan who seems to have pulled himself out of a slump, is clearly having a blast, flaunting buffed tattooed biceps, and bunging Punjabi-isms into his patter: when asked who else lives in his apartment, his ‘main or mera swag’ makes us smile. His partner-in-crime, Chunky Panday’s nightclub-owner, is fun too (until he’s given a drippy scene to help Jazz mend his ways). Kubbra Sait’s crack hair-dresser Rhea, Jazz’s 2 am friend, is trope-y (just like all BFFs whose shoulder is meant to be leaned on), but she fills her part with real feeling. Mishra and Jalal fit right in too.
The one surprise, not exactly in a good way, is Tabu, who shows up in an extended cameo. As Anaya, who had ‘sambhog’ with Jazz in her misbegotten youth, and who has clearly not given him a thought after, she should have been a hoot. But her hippy-till-I-die, spliff-waving, yoga-loving, chakra-aligning, flaky character never really comes together. Mamma Mia’s Meryl Streep’s don’t-know-who-your-father-is-mum may have been an inspiration, and Tabu is just the right actor for it, but not when she’s given so little to work with.
Debutant Alaya F, daughter of Pooja Bedi, makes up for it by her pleasingly sweet, limpid-eyed insistence on acceptance and, yes, that thing called love which never goes out of vogue. She works well with Saif Ali Khan, who is clearly having a moment: they look as if they could belong, off screen as well.
A little more consistency with the writing, and a re-upping of the fun-meter would have made Jawaani Jaaneman super. As it is, it is fun while it lasts.