By Subhash K Jha, IANS
After watching the vacuous synergy of DON, here comes a film that sweeps you off your feet with its expansive vision of a world where true love triumphs even if it takes six songs, seven aptly choreographed dances (Farah Khan, take a bow) and five utterly heartwarming moments of drama, all woven into a tongue-in-cheek pastiche that collects all the clichés and conventions of the traditional filmy triangle into a clasp that saloms Broadway's truest and most vigorous musical tradition.
Initially it's a little tough to get into the gorgeous groove and the flamboyant moves orchestrated by a director who has the derring-do to take on the clichés of cinema and turn the mon their head. The first twenty minutes are near-disastrous, what with the dialogues with a devilish dwarf of an uncle (Anupam Kher) about the hero Suhaan (Salman Khan)'s past brush with love marriage and divorce going nowhere. But then the narrative gathers momentum. And we're soon looking at lives that are defined and dressed-up in the best musical tradition. Sadly the music score isn't as supportive as it should've been. Much of the musical impact comes from Gulzar's tongue-in-cheek lyrics paying a homage to that feeling of lovelorn wistfulness and of course the central performances.
Akshay Kumar as the college nerd (look: courtesy the American serial Friends) who silently worships the student next-deskis full of perky beans bubbling over in sensitive motions that show how effortlessly he links with his character. But it's Salman who propels this pungent tale of dramatic love forward. In a narrative saucily freed of serious intentions, buoyed by devices that take sporting potshots at that sting-thing called love, Salman creates an endearing graph as a callous arrogant wannabe film-star (check out his super starry tantrums in New York when an American director offers him the second lead) who turns into a sobbing mass of fatherly concerns in the second-half when he realizes he has a baby from the wife whom he once deserted.
JAAN-E-MANN uses potboiler-conventions to tell a story that takes Hindi cinema to a new narrative level. Characters cheekily tampers with time and space to the extent that they appear to be no slave to either. Musical outfits pop out of nowhere. A Qawwalli group emerges from a cupboard and celebrates the nerd Agastya's devotion to the beauty with brains, when the cool dude Sohaan realizes he still loves the ex-wife whom he's been trying to thrust on the nerd (it's a complicated knick-knack of plotting devices) window panes shatter in computer-generated synchronicity...
Shirish Kunder uses a fascinating and energetic new form of storytelling that fuses the traditional Hindi-film triangle into the all-encompassing vision of Broadway musicals where colours create a riot of over-the-top emotions. Sadly the format is inconsistent, veering vigorously from satire to homage.
And yet there's ample room in the lengthy narrative to bring out the emotional power of the plot. Indeed Salman cries (manfully) for almost the entire second-half without getting whiny or tedious... no mean feat! Akshay is full of chortling gaiety, enjoying every bit of his role as a wannabe Salman who realizes devotion cannot be reciprocated by love. A sporting role, performed with great empathy.
Preity Zinta remains controlled throughout. The single-mother role allows her no room to let go. And the narrative filled with singing lines that sublimate her woes, allows her no room for dramatics.
Though hard to get into, JAAN-E-MANN is great fun once you get into it. This is a world of eternally – designed dreams. No one dies. Yes, all the characters get emotionally disturbed. But Shirish never lets us forget this is a movie. Everything will come our right at the end.
Full marks to the debutant director for creating a delicately drawn world of wispy emotions. D.O.P Sudeep Chatterjee and art director Sabu Cyril do a great job of harnessing Kunder's Peter Pan vision into a spiral of whispering emotions that undulate softly, sometimes in counter-productive motions.
If only Shirsh didn't get carried away with his novel format. A little bit of control in the space allotted and that tendency for the satire on cinematic conventions to willy-nilly turn into a homage, and vice versa, would have gone a long way into holding Kunder's big Broadway-styled world of song, dance and redemption in place.