“For any given problem, we should either find the solution ourselves or accept a solution presented by someone else.” This dialogue from the 2023 movie “Jaane Jaan” encapsulates the essence of the film, compelling the viewers to start questioning everything presented to them. While most conventional thrillers focus on figuring out the murderer, this Bollywood film directed by Sujoy Ghosh revolves around the cover-up rather than the discovery of the crime.
The story is based on Keigo Higashino’s bestselling novel “The Devotion of Suspect X” and is set against the foggy hill town Kalimpong in West Bengal. The plot follows a genius Math teacher (Jaideep Ahlawat), who is infatuated with his beautiful neighbour, a single mother called Maya D’Souza (Kareena Kapoor), who runs a café. When Maya kills a man while trying to protect her daughter, the teacher helps cover her tracks, all while a relentless cop named Karan (Vijay Varma) pursues Maya as the principal suspect in the case. To make things more complicated, Karan and the teacher turn out to be college buddies.
“Jaane Jaan” might not be as amusing, colorful, and comical as Vasan Bala’s thriller ‘Monica, O My Darling,’ another Bollywood adaptation of a Keigo Higashino murder mystery novel. Still, Sujoy Ghosh and his team immediately draw you into their world, introducing all their principal players within the first fifteen minutes. Except for one small song sequence set in a karaoke bar, the film has no songs, but gritty racy background tracks keep thrumming through the runtime, maintaining a steady sense of intrigue and suspense until the end.
Jaideep Ahlawat’s character is simply known as “Teacher” by everybody in town, his personality already lost under the layers of being nothing but the math teacher, as if he isn’t human at all. There’s this Frankenstein-like touch to his character’s appearance, making his presence ominous, creepy, and unpredictable throughout the runtime. While Kareena Kapoor is sombre as the anxious single mom trying to outwit the police, but she doesn’t blend well in this broody gothic looking noir. Saurabh Sachdeva impressed viewers with villainy in “Haddi” and does so gain in “Jaane Jaan” too. Even though he has a small cameo, he is sinister and despicable as the man who prompts Maya into murdering him. Their history is quickly unveiled in flashbacks and brief conversations for viewers to grasp the significance or rather the necessity of his death.
Vijay Varma has a surprisingly heroic introductory sequence as the spirited cop Karan, engaging in a martial arts face-off with a colleague before being deployed to Kalimpong. Viewers finally get to know the math teacher as Naroo AKA Naren, after Karan instantly recognises him as his old friend. In-fact, the limited interactions between Karan and Naren are the most entertaining bits in “Jaane Jaan”. The odd friendship between the balding asocial math genius and the friendly smart cop has a certain allure to it. In this equation, Kareena Kapoor appears somewhat on the periphery, standing out just a tad.
Sujoy Ghosh conjures up a bleak, dreary world of murder, obsession and a cat-mouse chase between the cops and the suspects. Naren devotedly builds up a strong alibi for Maya and the cover-up story will remind some fans of “Drishyam”, which has a slightly similar premise. The incorporation of local cuisine and the inclusion of North-Eastern actors in key supporting roles in the film were excellent decisions by the creative team, given that the story is set in Kalimpong. There’s a comical scene where Karan takes Maya to a restaurant to ask questions, and she orders in Nepali, requesting a dangerously spicy local dish for the cop as a way to punish him for causing her discomfort.
The pace slows down a bit in the last 30 minutes or so, particularly because Karan’s brief infatuation with Maya during the investigation lacks conviction. While I appreciated the minimal presence of romantic elements in “Jaane Jaan,” some viewers might find this disappointing. Nevertheless, the thriller concludes with a few subtle twists, cleverly foreshadowed from the beginning. Depending on your perspective, it can be seen as either a happy or tragic ending.
Rating: 7 on 10. Stream “Jaane Jaan” on Netflix if you are looking to watch a thriller.
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