Banner:Yash Raj FilmsCast:Abhishek Bachchan,Preity Zinta,Bobby Deol,Shruti Seth,Amitabh Bachchan,Lara DuttaDirection:Shaad AliProduction:Aditya ChopraMusic:Shankar Mahadevan-Ehsaan Noorani-Loy
Right this moment, a group of unshaved and unkempt men-child with posters and VHS tapes of Bollywood films from the 70s are planning a cult meeting to celebrate the rise of the Bollywood Film Geek! After enduring years of mindless NRI romances in phoren locations from the Yash Raj banner, Shaad Ali Sahgal finally gives us a mindless NRI romance in a phoren location from the Yash Raj banner! You see, the triumph is in the fact that Shaad Ali Sahgal’s Jhoom Barabar Jhoom, unlike the mindless NRI romances in phoren locations ere, actually acknowledges that it is a mindless NRI romance in a phoren location. And oh…it knows that it is only right to call it phoren and not foreign.
Jhoom Barabar Jhoom is a film that is so clever in its humour; I wouldn’t be surprised if it fails. And if it doesn’t, my estimation of the average audience will be pleasantly proven wrong. One must truly be a Bollywood geek to ‘get’ each single wink and nod that Shaad Ali Sahgal and his bunch of writers(Tigmanshu Dhulia, Habib Faisal and Anurag Kashyap…that’s a gang of Bollwood film geeks right there!) give to an era here, a genre there…a convention here and a cliché there. They stack up the narrative with so many references, that after a while the film begins to function apart from itself like a separate meta-film. So when Preity Zinta tells later in the film that the person across her street looks into her bedroom with a telescope, you are at once reminded of last year’s Preity starrer Jaan-e-Mann.
The meta-filmic aspect of the film is established right at the beginning when Abhishek Bachchan’s Rikki Thukral answers his cell-phone that curiously has a ringtone of Aishwarya Rai’s “Hey Handsome” bit from Bunty Aur Babli’s ‘Kajra Re’. Even the riff of ‘Kajra Re’ is used as a liet-motif all throughout.
Rikki Thukral, a desi London fixer, and Alvira Khan(Preity Zinta), a prim & propah Pakistani Brit, meet at the London train station while waiting for their respective fiancés to arrive from Birmingham. They exchange stories of their meet-cutes- he about his Parisian encounter with French-Pakistani Anaida(Lara Dutta) and she about her comic-book styled romance with half-English Steve(Bobby Deol). Rikki and Anaida fall in love while the world’s mourning Princess Diana’s death. Although the script foolishly simplifies this angle in the end, at the moment I thought it was a nice allusion to the inciting incident in Jean Pierre Jeunet’s Amelie. Alvira and Steve on the other hand exist in a subterranean world of Xanadu palaces and Bruce Wayne like sophistication. It is fitting that Alvira and Steve meet at Madame Tussaud’s, with Superman’s wax model acting as Cupid! Yet, these are love stories based on wax models and car crashes. And so, Rikki and Alvira are destined to fall for each other. And fall they do…over a song. ‘Bol Na Halke Halke’(Say It Softly), the best shot song(Abhishek Bachchan dressed like Sr. Bachchan from Coolie and Preity as Zaara from Veer-Zaara) shows us in three episodic stanzas a life that Rikki and Alvira could have, if only Steve and Anaida didn’t exist. But do they?
Despite what’s been summarized above, Jhoom Barabar Jhoom really has no story. That’s the beauty of it. It is one continuous and unrelenting wet dream of every masala film lover. I’d be spoiling the experience if I were to mention every detail but only a true Bollywood bug would get immense joy in seeing Sudhir Kumar on the screen after God knows how many years. Only the geekiest of masala film lover will appreciate the audacity of a 25 minute dance-off in the climax, like the one we had in Nasir Hussain’s Hum Kisise Kum Nahin. Only a real lover of Bollywood cinema will laugh out loud as ‘Yeh Dosti’ begins to play when Abhishek and Bobby drive a sidecar moped.
Abhishek and Bobby unfortunately do not share much screen-space. They do splendid jobs in their individual roles nonetheless. Bobby has never been this comfortable, and his comic timing in the second half is spot-on. Much of that is also due to Lara Dutta who acts as a clever foil to the reversals brought about in their respective characters. In fact, Bobby and Lara get to play much more complex roles, but the simpler leads are just so well written that they both get relegated to the back seats. Preity Zinta’s make-up artist deserves brownie points for making her look as good as she does here especially after her horrendous appearance in last year’s Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna. And is it just me or is she resembling Monica Bellucci as she’s getting older. Abhishek Bachchan is what you’d call the ‘jaan’(life) of Jhoom Barabar Jhoom. He exudes the character, save one uncomfortable romantic moment in the climax, in every single frame. His Rikki Thukral is going to be quoted in cult circles. As is Piyush Mishra’s Huffy bhai, who has the honour of mouthing the funniest line in the movie- “God made man…tailor made Gentleman!” Amitabh Bachchan is strictly okay though in his Jack Sparrow hangover. I could’ve also done without him reappearing in an extended epilogue to over simplify the preceding events. Sanjeev Bhaskar and Meera Syal, from The Kumars At No. 42, pop up in delightful cameos.
Special mention must be made of the soundtrack. This is easily the most foot-tapping soundtrack of the year. The fact that they are pictured so wonderfully(Ayananka Bose) makes it all the more fulfilling. Shankar-Ehsan-Loy have to thank Gulzar for penning such playful lyrics to their compositions. Listen to the line “Yahi kahi shab kaatenge…chillum chataiee baatenge…chal dhuva udaake jhoom” (Somewhere around here we shall spend the evening, distribute mats and pipes and smoke away in ecstasy).Only a master would appreciate the poetry in a simple act of smoking weed.
I’m not a big fan of Shaad’s earlier works, but in Jhoom Barabar Jhoom, he displays an understanding of Bollywood idiom that very few young directors possess(Farhan Akhtar sorely misses this, while Rohan Sippy shows flashes of it). Maybe it’s the presence of the Bachchans that automatically brings out the masala comprehension required to tackle a no-brainer such as this. Thank God, this film doesn’t take itself seriously