Thursday, July 9, 2009

Jhoom Barabar Jhoom

There's a kind of movie that I think of as "all premise, no delivery." APND movies have hooks or initial situations that are attention-grabbing, but then several things tend to happen: the characters and their relationships, once established, don't develop; the movie falls back on slapstick or caricature; the inevitable ending is delayed by the increasingly desperate machinations of the screenwriters; and last-minute reversals or dei ex machinis are thrown in to resolve the plot. I realize that having a gimmicky premise is almost the definition of a commercial movie. But it's how that premise is developed that separates the good films from the bad.

APND movies can be entertaining up to a point, which is usually intermission--and then they fall victim to the dreaded Curse of the Second Half. Examples are Heyy Babyy (2007; premise: bachelors care for a baby girl), Bachna Ae Haseeno (2008; premise: dumped Lothario apologies to mistreated past girlfriends), and now Jhoom Barabar Jhoom (Dance Baby Dance, 2007; premise: two strangers block any possibility of romantic attraction by telling each other that they're engaged--but are they?). Here's what didn't work for me in JBJ:

  1. When Alvira (Preity Zinta) and Rikki (Abhishek Bachchan) meet at London's Waterloo train station while ostensibly waiting for the arrival of their respective fianc├ęs Steve (Bobby Deol) and Anaida (a virtually unrecogniable Lara Dutta), and each spins a lengthy story about how they met their significant other, it's obvious that those stories aren't true. Either Alvira and Rikki are lying to each other, or they're being scammed by their erstwhile lovers. (Which alternative it is doesn't get revealed until later, but it's absolutely clear that neither of their stories can be taken at face value.) So when the "surprises" are revealed in the second half they fall completely flat because we're at least 90 minutes ahead of screenwriter Habib Faisal.
  2. The direction by Shaad Ali (who also directed the superior Bunty Aur Babli (2005)) alternates between pedestrian and hyperkinetic, the choreography by Vaibhavi Merchant is uninspired, and the music by the usually reliable Shankar-Eshaan-Loy is often irritating. Two of the main songs feature English tag lines, always a bad sign. "Ticket to Hollywood" is a lame bhangra-hip-hop fusion that substitutes mugging for the camera for dancing. (A tip to S-E-L: "Monsieur" is not pronounced "mossy-eh.") And in "Kiss of Love," what does "Stay away from the kiss of love" really mean? Both numbers are pure filler, and aren't even entertaining filler. The "Bol Na Halke Halke" joint fantasy sequence would be lovely if Ali's overactive camera didn't spoil the mood, but it seems to belong to a different, better film. The only song that's truly memorable (in a good way) is the title track, picturized throughout the film on Amitabh Bachchan.
  3. Bobby Deol's poodle perm.
  4. The contrived, tacked-on, silly (and endless) dance competition climax, which arises from nothing but Habib Faisal's desperation. (Vaibhavi Merchant's lack of choreographic inspiration in this movie is especially apparent here.)
  5. The contrived, tacked-on, silly denouement.
The performances of Preity Zinta and Abhishek Bachchan--who manage to generate some charming onscreen chemistry despite the limitations of the screenwriter's imagination--and the super-cool cameos by Abhishek's dad aren't enough to rescue JBJ from its glaring flaws of writing and execution. Stay away, indeed...

4 comments:

  1. Heee! How did I miss this post?

    Thank you for sharing my opinion on JBJ - all premise and no follow through.

    I do like quirky takes on the traditional romancy-Yash Raj film like Jaan-e-Mann but the story (and songs) have to up to it, too.

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  2. Filmi Girl, I haven't yet seen Jaan-e-Maan--the gravitational attraction of Preity Zinta hasn't yet counteracted the repellent force of Salman Khan.

    But good music and picturizations can overcome a mediocre movie's weaknesses (Exhibit A: Dil Hai Tumhaara), while bad music (as in much of JBJ) just makes everything worse.

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  3. Awww, see, I love JBJ. I know it's utterly screwball and silly, but it never tries to be anything other. Plus, it's proven to be an excellent "conversion" film for those who're unsure about whether Hindi films will work for them. And I love the music! Hee. Am totally indiscriminate.

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  4. Ajnabi, you're hardly indiscriminate--in your review you make the strongest possible case for JBJ. Alas, I have to say that most of the elements you celebrate--the music, the picturizations, the knowing self-reflexiveness that places every scene in quotation marks--just didn't work for me. (And in general I like self-reflexivity; someday I'm going to do a post on my favorite filmi songs that quote other filmi songs.)

    You express your enjoyment so entertainingly that I feel like I'm being a bit of a killjoy. And it's great that you've found JBJ to be a good conversion experience--I'm in favor of anything that sparks an interest in Indian movies!

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