Friday, July 18, 2008

Jab We Met versus Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na: An emerging trend

A lot of people have been comparing Jab We Met to Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na. How exactly has this association engine kicked into gear?

Theories can abound - both are vibrant romances with hatke moments, both talk sincerely to a younger generation - but I suspect that the scriptwriter's ability to find a character's inner voice has much to do with it. Everyone seems to identify with the characters. Of course, everyone seems to think of themselves as either Jai or Aditi of JTYJN and their friends are mapped to the sideys but wasn't it Galileo who once said that the Universe revolves around each one of us and not the sun?

This new found character engagement in the script is incremental, not evolutionary. But in Bollywood - which tends to ignore its abundant talent and feed its audiences a steady diet of masala cliches - its enough to get noticed.

More on that later. First off, Imtiaz Ali's Jab We Met is easily the stronger of the two movies.

JTYJN gets only a few of things right - although they majorly count. Its stunt casting works brilliantly. And Imraan Khan connects with the dweeb within with enough flourish to power the movie. (It's also got a low tech heart which is endearing but I digress)

Yet I felt JTYJN's first time director Abbas Tyrewala, who also wrote the movie, had problems pacing it initially. The first third of the movie will probably go down as its most memorable given that it has its two biggest hit songs (Kabhi Kabhi Aditi and Pappu Can't Dance) in it. But those songs are largely responsible for stopping the narrative dead in its tracks. Tyrewala happily overcomes this and finds his rhythm later on.

JWM had another advantage - Shahid Kapur played his character generously enough to allow Kareena to unfold a revelatory performance. In JTJYN, Imraan's geeky flair doesn't have anyone to bounce off of, least of all his partner Genelia, who turns in a safely boring, by the numbers performance.

In any case on to the glass half full - so what is it that causes people to connect both movies together?

I felt that the writers Imtiaz and Abbas had well developed back stories for each character. You couldn't see it in the movie - but when writers work this way, they end up writing lines for characters that sound genuine, making them stand out and allowing audiences to connect with them. In addition, when characters acted a certain way in each movie, they did so with a consistency that matched their motivation and psyche. (Michael Caine's prep story for his role in The Dark Knight is a great lite example of this)

I hope to see more of this trend in the future. But there are a couple of thorny problems worth watching in this space.

This trend needs to move beyond fun-bindaas Bollywood flicks and address characters in larger, masala flicks where characters tend to be broader. I mean no disrespect to the numerous movies that might have done this previously - but we are talking about mass market hits here.

And second, throwing traditional masala moments, like say songs, becomes harder in a movie that is well written. After all, imagine a sad sack who breaks into a dance with a guitar in the middle of a mope worthy moment. It would entirely derail the flick. So new constructs have to be developed.They have to be tried. Some will work, some won't.

Still, it can be done. (JWM snuck its songs into the movie superbly) And I hope it will.

58 comments:

Pitu said...

Fab post Aspi! Also, these are the last 2 movies I watched over and over again. I enjoyed OMO as well but not as much. These 2 movies have a fab repeat value.

j said...

Pitu, OMO? Did you mean OSO?

I think 'Dil Chahta Hai' started a lot of these trends - the conversational movies with well etched out characters, a slice of the characters lives (no longer movies have to have a beginning and a clean finish) and the cool urban looking characters that the Chopras have imitated with their Dhoom enterprise and now Tashan.

Bella said...

very very nice post aspi. Havent seen JTYJN, but i loved JWM. I could totally identify with Shahid's character, even though i am female.

girlie girl said...

Nice post Aspi. Maybe one of the reasons people can't help but compare JWM to JTYJN is because JWM was one of the biggest hit of 2007 and JTYJN seems to be the only hit in 2008 (so far, that is), plus they both appeal to generation Y and all that.

Plus, both Shahid (after JWM) and Imran are TOTAL eye-candy!!

meena said...

I read somewhere, tyrewala said that when he first discussed the script of JTYJN with Aamir, Aamir told him to construct the movie as a story about the character Jai and not think of it as a launch for Imraan. What great advice, and tyrewala delivers.

I liked Imraan's character and thought it came off in a way better than Shahid's.. Aspi, more so because he was the lone star in the movie with no one else living it up to him. Shahid's character wouldnt have had as much of an impact if there was no Geet. that only worked as a pair.

..loved the fact that there was no too much hype about Imraan and addded to this in his first performance, made us notice only jai! take notes Harman. Cant wait to see how he develops in his next movies.

J, you are right Dil Chahta hai was the first to put characters above the story.

Never Mind!! said...

I guess the comparison was inevitable also because of the loud female lead versus the calm and subdued male. I like JWM much better because of the pace. JTYJN got boring enough at times for me to read while watching the movie.

But one thing I absolutely loved about the movie was the way they treated the usual bollywood formulas.I still wonder why they had the Arbaaz Khan and SohailKhan characters in the movie? Anybody?

Aspi said...

Good point about Dil Chahta Hai. In general, I think Aamir's insistence on creating consistent characters in pre production has earned him the "difficult" tag. History will see him in kinder light.

Never Mind!!, JTYJN has been called cliched. But I think Tyrewala might be smart enough that you have to believe his cliches are tongue in cheek homages. (But who knows?)

The arthouse casting really works. And so do the Khan brothers - I can't think of a specific reason for having them other than if you are casting two rambunctious brothers who are bone headed but noble - the house of Salman Khan comes to mind, no?

meena said...

..or maybe I liked Imraan more than Shahid only because I cant forgive shahid for wearing a horrible, unnecessary, cliched green scarf in one of the more critical scenes of the movie :-)

meena said...

..so whats the story with Bachna ae hasino? does anyone know if its a remake of siddharth-starrer Chukkalo Chandrudu?

Pitu said...

J, yes I meant OSO.

Meena, which green scarf? Speaking of clothes, I WANT Bebo's white salwar kurta with the chunky NE style jewelry that she twirls around in, in that 'Tumse hi' song. She looked like a gudiya in that and reminded me of her looks in that 'O ri kanchi' song of Asoka.

girlie girl said...

I believe the green scarf that Meena is talking about is from JWM when Shahid goes to find Geet in Shimla...that was a hideous scarf, but think it worked since everythign else he was wearing was black, i believe.

Pitu, I acutally thing that the chunky jewelery salwar kurta scene was totally un-necessary in the movie...she's just twirling from one end of the living room to the next...totally pointless IMO.

meena said...

This green scarf...
http://www.chakpak.com/photo/jab-we-met/74880?gdata=18964&gtype=mp&index=23

somebody tell me.. was this really necessary?

j said...

What I also liked about JWM (and Imtiaz Ali's other movies) is that the premises are simple and the movie does not make you feel uncomfortable and cringing in your seats at any time. For example, nothing horrible happens to Geet when she is not seen by her family for 9 months.

For this very reason you can watch the movie any number of times and not get down or depressed.

Kanan said...

Meena, I loved that green scarf on Shahid with his whole black outfit. I think he looked great with it on than without it. Specially when he runs to grab his cellphone and the way he slides. OOOOOOH!! :D That whole scene is awesome and of course the hug at the end.

Love almost all the songs of JWM - mauja hi mauja is my least fav. In the whole movie Kareena looked the cutest when "aao milo chale" starts and she's sitting in a seat on the bus across from Shahid and smiles at him and he smiles back. And then of course the scene where he says good bye to her before she meets Anshuman for the first time. He says "take care" and the before and after expressions on his face. OMG! I almost fainted. His eyes are so expressive.

Haven't watched the JTYJN so can't comment on it. I do like some of the songs.

meena said...

kanan, dont get me wrong, I have liked Shahid since Ishq Vishq days but I just dont think that scarf look is good on men (especially not emerald green)..
In fact Aspi, I was going to suggest you should give this to the shaili police when they start in on the men :)

meena said...

...in fact Akshay Khanna had a scarf thing in Taal which I shuddered through..

all I am saying is why? why why why this effeminate piece of silly non-functional bit of cloth on the men? rant ended..
ok now I am done.

Kanan said...

Meena, may be I like it because I like being different than the general trend. Not that much different that the fashion police have to be out and about but just something for a change. Now if he wore a pink or purple colored scarf that's different story, but green was alright I think. I think his sweater had tiny stripes around wrists collars if I think I've paid attention to that detail, but I could be wrong. So the green scarf looked fine to me.

I think Akshay too looked okay with it in Taal. I will have to watch that scene again though.

Aspi said...

long scarves on men reminds me of Archie and Riverdale High. But all this happened before any of you whippersnappers were probably born.

Pitu said...

Ok, I agree with meena, didn't like the green scarf but it didn't bother me a whole lot. mostly, it was just meh. BUT if we are talking scarves, how about a buddha, puffy faced Aamir in 'Chand Sifarish' with all the scarf? That, I remembered because I adore Aamir and I expect him to look good all the time.

girlie girl, I know, it was pointless but it was soooooo pretty!! I would totally go buy that and wear it. She looked like a 'naye zamane ki North Eastern Chandni' lol I actually liked a lot of the NE inspired garb and jewelry they used in JWM - like the skirts and accessories in 'Ye ishq hai'.

Pitu said...

Also Taal had a *lot* of hideous clothes in it. Ugh. And Akshaye Khanna! Ew, I still remember that pseudo stupid dialog "Don't fall in love, you must RISE in love". Arghh. Also, the usually sexy Akshay Kumar looked horribly wrong in 'Bewafaa'. He's come on screen in his brownish-red goatee and I'd think 'Look! It's Kabootar Khana waale attarwale Khan uncle!' Not. Sexy.

j said...

I think the scarves and sweaters around the neck is hindi film's way of protraying a non-agressive, a wussified (in not a bad way) look. Kind of like SRK in Mohabattein.

For some reason bollywood designers also use glasses on men for that purpose. Maybe its our subconscious way of identifying with Gandhi.

Mind Rush said...

Scarves and Indian men have a long connection.

In villages you wear a "gamcha" usually red and white, also used for wiping off sweat.

In temples and in situations demanding respectability you wear a shawl around your shoulders.

In winter, men wear "mufflers" in North India.

In weddings the groom wears a dupatta.

In other words, its the male accesory of choice whether you are urban/rural/too cold/too warm.

Anonymous said...

I know am being totally off-track with the current topic of discussion, but could not help briging this up. Have any of you checked the latest voice of India? Many of the participants are from previous shows of Gaj...for ex. Shraddha Das was a participant in lil champs 2006 and lot others are left overs from last year SVOI. I wonder if the auditions were conducted and if yes how serious were they?!!!

Pitu said...

If it's a subliminal Gandhi thing, how 'bout some loincloths? :-D

Anonymous said...

OMG GUYS *BREAKING NEWS*


Look at this DISGUSTING VIDEO OF KATRINA.AFTER FINDING THIS,I'VE LOST ALL RESPECT FOR HER.SHE'S A CHEAP WOMEN JUST LIKE EVERY OTHER IN BOLLYWOOD.

I WONDER WHAT SALMAN HAS TO SAY ABOUT THIS...

TAKE A LOOK FOR YOUR SELVES!:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HbfUCGSBpes

~Sabrina~ said...

^^^^OMG.This is truly shocking.


Gross.Sad to see that Katrina's a p*rnstar in the making

Kanan said...

I wouldn't call the scarves (or mufflers as I like to call them) wussified, more like sophisticated look. I think Dharampaji (professor) wore one in Chupke Chupke too and he looked good. His monkey topi was way too cute.

Where’s Beth when we need her? I know she’d have some most pathetic looking scenes of Bollywood boys with scarves to share with us from her ugly ugly bollywood site.

j said...

Kanan, you used a better word than me but that is what I meant. That is why I said "in a good way" :)

j said...

On the Katrina video that movie is old. That was her first movie and she came in as a b-grade starlet. Its her affair with Salman Khan that has moved her to the a-list.

And that movie was done in a tongue-in-cheek way which failed horribly.

I though believe that she works hard and is trying to make the best for someone with no bollywood, no indian modelling background.

meena said...

..look what I found on the site Kanan mentioned..haha..
http://bollywoodfugly.blogspot.com/2006/11/fanaa-or-song-of-scarf.html

Aspi said...

Exclamation Lover, I don't know if you watched this carefully but there are three different women in that vid.

Katrina

Someone in a different outfit (her top has a yellow band on the bottom)

A body double whose face you cant see

Katrina has the most decent part.

If anyone needs slamming for this, its Gulshan Grover.

Anonymous said...

ASVOI 2
http://starvoiceofindiatwo.blogspot.com/

*Watch Video , I am pretty sure King Aspi will find a lot of material by watching Monty Sharma and his Punch line
Attack
Attack

Few of initial audition 2007 rejected singers are back like Ryan Das, Vipul Mehta , Amitabh Narayan , Ravi Shukla, Rahul Mukerjee,

Average singers with Recycled songs

Nemo said...

Not sure if it makes sense, but JTYJN reminded me of the movie A Lot Like Love. Excellent date movies, hit all the clich├ęs in a good way and cutesy harmless characters.

Mind Rush said...

Another big star in a scarf today

http://toronto.ctv.ca/tl/photo.html?pname=http://images.ctv.ca/archives/CTVNews/img2/20080717/450_cp_bollywood_080717.jpg&win_width=845.0&description=Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, centre, husband Abhishek Bachchan, left, and Amitabh Bachchan pose during a press conference for 'The Unforgettable Tour' in Toronto, Thursday, July 17, 2008. (Aaron Harris / THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Anonymous said...

Mufflers are not that useless, ask people from Delhi, who brave the winters and DTC buses (with a lot of broken glasses), the wind chill can make u loose any sense of having ears...Muffler tied tightly around the ears is the real life saver :-)

Never Mind!! said...

Aspi,I am old enough to be around for the Riverdale fun!

I am with you meena.No scarves on my men.

Never Mind!! said...

Oh the third woman in that Boom video is Top Chef Padma Lakshmi.

Aspi said...

Ah so that is who it is - looked familiar. And that reminds me: I need to see Boom. Meena has been recommending that movie to me for years.

leera said...

Ok I finally watched this movie (Pitu your review sold me and I have been craving coke the soda ever since)

I liked Imran a little better in his interviews and Aspi, bang on with the inner dweeb thing. He was however very well cast and truly stayed honest especially in the awkward/dorky scenes. Genelia was appropriately a cross between impish and adorable and genuinely made me wanna see her in more movies (over the sonal chauhans and neha oberois).

The older star cast was delicious and really a treat in a movie like this. The gujju dude was annoying and could have been avoided or less stereotypical. The Khan brothers finally did something right! Yay!
JWM for me gets a couple more points for novel dialogues and making it inspite of lacking some of the sleek packaging/production values that Jaane Tu had.

Btw aspi, I have owned, borrowed, jacked my fair share of Archies in elementary school. I remember them being great for reading surreptitiously in the bathroom, when I was supposed to be studying.

leera said...

Oh and I love Padma Lakshmi and Top Chef!! She sounds so jolly and drunk reading the teleprompter.

Wasn't AB Sr. in Boom?

svr said...

Aspi, I don't know that I agree with you re: song placement in JWB, I thought most of them were routine, unnecessary, and didn't add anything of value to the story -- i.e., every song except for the Aaoge Jab Tum and Mauja Hi Mauja. At least the songs were much, much nicer in JTYJN. You didn't think "Yeh Ishq Hai", e.g., was entirely unnecessary and waaaaay too loud??

svr said...

I agree with the pretty much all the rest of your observations, though :)

Pitu said...

leera, thanks. hmm so many ppl have seen the film based on my review i think i shd ask for a commission ;-)

Lin said...

Aspi, I am in my early twenties, and I get the Archie and Riverdale High Reference.

Interestingly, when I was younger I always rooted for Veronica and would hate that it seemed to be more in favor of Betty. Even when Veronica had Archie, it still seemed that that the overall tone was that Betty should be the one with him.

The reason I always rooted for Veronica? Because she was brunette. :)
Come to think of it, I know my best friend at the time (Indian) also rooted for Veronica. I'm curious to know if that was the case with a lot of other Indian girls.

About Scarves. I like Men in scarves, but only when it looks good. :)

The Western fashion ramp has guys in scarves all the time. :)

Which reminds me, maybe I'm imagining things, but in relation to the older fashion post. I for the life of me don't know if my mind is making up these images or what. But don't those skinny male models walk around with jackets sleeves rolled up, as well? Or am I just conjuring up images in my head. It's been a while since I've looked through fashion pics. The last I saw after a long drought was Versacci's Obama line--which had men in scarves. :)

Pitu said...

I loved Archie comics and the only one I identified with was Jughead. He was the coolest because he ate a lot and had a dog. I also ate a lot (my friends call me bhukkad) but stayed skinny as a rail and also had dogs and cats! So I didn't give any bhaav to the Archies/Bettys/Veronicas/Reggies ;-) My other fave characters were Shaggy and his dog Scooby (from the cartoon).

Aspi said...

Nice to know Archie lives on - although I can't read them now. But I used to map a lot of people to those characters.

I thought Ethel and Reggie were a lot of fun. And Veronica's snooty princess persona was surprisingly endearing.

svr I know what you mean. I think if songs are a given in the Bollywood structure, JWM is a good example to follow. Its all relative of course, but I was just watching Welcome last night a little and the way songs were put in there was so bad it wasn't funny.

JTJYN's song situations were just as jarring. Its no wonder they left out two of the better songs on the CD from the film altogether. Although I hear Aamir pulled a repeat viewing stunt with those.

Aspi said...

leera, that gujju character annoyed me to. If laughs have to be squeezed there a ton of ways to do it - and if you are speaking to an urban audience you have to respect them enough that they will understand jokes that don't pummel you in the face (i.e. that annoying on-again/off-again gujju accent in the movie).

Aspi said...

Bella, forgot to ask. Why Shahid's character? Are you the thoughtful, quiet types who longs for Geet-like freedom? :)

j said...

Lin, growing up in India I always rooted for Veronica. Infact, I even liked to dress like her - short skirts and sweaters. I dont think it was her hair color that I paid as much attention to then but now I wonder on why Veronica was so popular specially with the penchant for little girls to play with dolls that are blue eyed and blond.

I think in my case I always liked the more sophisticated V to the klutzy B. Even the Karan Johar's version KKHH I prefered Rani's character to Kajol's.

j said...

So canadians here watch the bachchan tour?

Aspi said...

Arre, with Veronica around who would want to play with Betty?!

And yes, how was the show if anyone went. I'm going to the one in Chicago so it better be good!

Malz said...

all this Archie talk makes me want to read the comics agn :)..I used to fancy Betty's ponytail n liked Jughead's character too..I wonder if they hv newer version of Archie comics with cell phones,laptops and all the in things now....anyone know?

Aspi said...

malz, I've seen Archies on the grocery store checkout counters.

If you go to their web site (which I've been on a few times here and there) you'll be able to read the daily comics section.

And based on the few I've seen - they still have the same amiable "jokes" and have a few updates. I think I once saw an desi character called Raj once.

Malz said...

hey thanks Aspi..I didnt know they had a website "duh!!" I have bookmarked it now.

svr said...

Aspi, that repeat viewing stunt by Aamir is hilarious! Has anyone actually tried it (and had audiences fall for it) earlier? If it works, I would think it would become standard fare in Bollywood film marketing!

Pitu said...

The Barjatyas started it with the addition of the antakshari song in Maine Pyar Kiya. The film was a superhit by then anyway so dunno if it made much difference. Incidentally, I was reading Aamir's blog day before and he had said he was considering doing so. Apparently, the film crew was divided on the deletion of those songs.

Bella said...

Aspi, yes, i am one of those very quiet, like to be on my own type ppl. as for longing for that Geet like freedom, yes i wish I had that and that is exactly what i am looking for in a partner.... *sigh*

Oh, caught up with Kismet Konnection this weekend. It was decent, Shahid needed a haircut in that movie. But JWM wins hands down

Aspi said...

Bella, my best wishes for finding (the equivalent of) Geet Singh.