Okay, Bollyviewer and Indie Quill and Antarra and others with hard-core Shashi Kapoor-song knowledge: is there something inherent about movies named after Shashi Kapoor songs that makes them so unexciting to me? Or is it just me? I don't love DDLJ or Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi, and I'm not that excited about Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na - or about how firmly it lodged that song in my head for going on 60 hours now. I was surprised to find myself so annoyed - how could I hate something that softened Mumbai streetscapes into sunny (if cheesily Photoshopped) impressionist moments?
When I was tweeting about the film as I watched it, someone told me that the language is what makes it special; I'm totally unqualified to talk about that, though I did pick up on and enjoy the generally breezy tone and genuinely person-to-person feel of the conversations. Maybe I'm too old to care about 21-year-olds sorting themselves out. If writing "I'm gay" on your friend as a joke is your sense of humor, I'm not interested - to me this just seems completely immature in an uncontextualized, irrelevant way.
By age-based logic (or cultural-based, for that matter), I shouldn't care for Dil Chahta Hai either, and it's one of my favorites, so I'm not willing to accept that as the fundamental problem for me with this movie.
My most significant complaint is probably with the character of Aditi, who is of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl type that I utterly loathe, be it in Bolly, Holly, or anywhere else. You can tell she's an adorable sprite of a free spirit by her head/hair accessories,
her suddenly-discovered ability to dance, her constant video camera usage, her pouting, and her violent streak, which is sugar-coated into cutely spunky. (Side note: when a woman is assertive, she's a bitch; when she's bellicose, she's adorable. WTF?) To be honest, my brain pretty much shut down once I got a sense of Aditi. I've never seen anything truly great come out of a story centered on a manic pixie dream girl. The charm of this type of character is totally lost on me, and the script's insistence that she is lovable! wacky! a free spirit! was unconvincing and repetitive. To top that off, Aditi of course wants to be protected and taken care of, like she's an infant. Gag me. Maybe writer/director Abbas Tyrewala was going for child-like, but to me, like all her literary and cinematic sisters, she's childISH. [Update to post, soon after writing: I just realized that the actor who plays Aditi's mother, Anuradha Patel, played the equally annoying manic pixie dream girl in the far more annoying Ijaazat! Whoa!] It is important to note that I think Genelia did as well as she could with the material she was given, and I don't blame her for how irritating Aditi was, though I could do with fewer twee eye gymnastics (which is how I felt about her performance in Bommarillu too).
Oh, and another thing about Aditi: her arc was insulting and dangerous. Let's contrast what happens to our two leads on their paths to eventual epiphany that they are each other's soul mate. Jai dates someone of his own choosing who is sweet and cute but eventually gets on his nerves; he steps up to his responsibility and is honest with Meghna about his misgivings, while she in turn fairly calls him out on how he hurts her, and their relationship ends mostly amicably and with admirable self-awareness.
Very nice. After a period of pouting over Jai and Meghna, Aditi gets set up by her parents with - and instantly engaged to - someone who is a one-man parade of red flags. He ignores her, emotionally cheats on her, and then hits her, at which point she is finally certain that this guy is wrong for her and it's best to give him up even though she thinks Jai is still in love with Meghna. NO, MOVIE. NO. As un-fond as I am of the "boys only become men by beating each other up and breaking the law" garbage that Jai was assigned - a.k.a. a spin-off of "boys will be boys" indulgence - the idea that women are supposed to learn something through violence inflicted on them by their supposed romantic partner is absolutely unacceptable to me. It also felt totally out of tone with the rest of the film, which even with my dependence on subtitles seemed otherwise mostly cute and candy-flossy.
Apart from these big problems, there were a lot of things about Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na that I liked. Well-done stories about friends are always welcome, and if I could cut out the principal romance from this film and just watch the cheerfully acted, amusingly scripted friends, I'd even hope for a sequel.
The friends got some lovely subtlety in characterization, like Shaleen's little disapproving sideways glances at Aditi's jealous acting out or Rotlu sadly moping with unrequited love outside a party.
The lead pair's parents may have been a bit too perfect, but that was a nice change after so many films of melodraMAAAAAAAAAAAA. Jai sinking into his mother's arms was totally believable and appropriate.
All of the supporting cast was wonderful; I wanted more of all of them. Well, except for Rajat Kapoor as Meghna's creepy, abusive father or...I've spaced the name of Aditi's loathsome fiancé. Shudder. It doesn't even seem fair to call most of them "supporting," because they were essential to the pleasures of this film.
Unimportant point: we first see the Khan brothers' characters across the parking lot and can't make out their faces but can tell they're cowboys, I thought "Oh boy, I don't know who this will be, but wouldn't it be superb if it were Raj and Pablo?" The only thing in this whole movie that surprised me pleasantly was how the brothers turned out to have at least one redeeming quality (not that that overshadowed their tendencies towards the date-rape-y). Oh, and another: I spy a mullet! A Bolly mullet!
My advice for those who are anti-manic pixie dream girls getting abused by boyfriends? Take joy (potentially generous amounts!) in Jai's mom (Ratna Pathak Shah), the funny (even to me!) "Papu Can't Dance" picturization, and the wonderful gaggle of friends. I don't at all get the big fuss about this movie, but it has its moments. Though they rest mostly with the non-lead characters, at least Tyrewala had the good sense to give them ample resources to shine.