Raise your hand if you have desperately tried to be young, cool and relevant on a dance floor in a nightclub? You are out of breath and heaving, but you still dance the pain away to appear wild.
Chances are your arm shot up if you are in your 30s or early 40s.
This is the demographic that Saif Ali Khan taps into effectively in his latest role as a staunchly-single, well-preserved, party animal named Jazz in ‘Jawaani Jaaneman’. His actual name is Jaspinder, but it doesn’t sound as cool as Jazz in his head.
His idea of a productive day is to party the night away in a London nightclub until 3am, flirt unapologetically, take a stranger home and then wake up at 3pm to do some real-estate brokering.
He takes pride in his narcissistic, self-centred existence and Khan is perfectly cast in this role. Jazz is a cad who can’t be bothered to remember a woman’s name that he is hitting on, but Khan injects his unflattering traits with a potent mix of charm and suaveness. He’s an out and out smooth operator when it comes to making an immature man-child on the big screen seem humane and unthreateningly flawed.
Director Nitin Kakkar has got everything about Khan’s character right. From his tight T-shirts with rock band logos like ‘Iron Maiden’ emblazoned on them, to his defiance of wearing reading glasses and his adherence to grating pop life philosophy like ‘a lion remains a lion only if he hunts alone’, to underline his glorious single existence is wonderfully nuanced.
His decadent debauchery hits a bump when a young woman, played by Alaya F, claiming to be his biological daughter enters his life.
The daughter of actress Pooja Bedi has spark and spunk aplenty. She’s engaging as the sweet-natured Tia, who’s more mature than her giant baby of a father.
Tia, born to the hippie Ananya (played to perfection by Tabu), is going through a quarter-life crisis and her reluctant father — who doesn’t take to parenthood naturally — is going through a terrible mid-life crisis and the two try to navigate their messy lives together. There’s vicarious fun to be had in their train-wrecked lives.
‘Jawaani Jaaneman’, which treats youth as this elusive elixir, is an engaging relationship drama about dysfunctional families. Khan and Tabu, as the warring parents, bring on the laughs. Ananya who considers meditation and recreational drugs as a life’s necessity is a hoot. The confrontation scenes between the two former lovers puts a smile on your face.
The movie cruises along smoothly during the witty encounters, but hits a rough note when it goes down the emotionally-charged route. The side story of an old Indian landlady, sitting on real-estate gold that Jazz wants to sell and her sentimental attachment to a weeping willow tree, is a bit of a stretch. Perhaps, it was a way to underline Jazz’s growing up and growing a heart, but it felt impossibly contrived. The tensions and rift that arises between an emotional daughter and a cold, clinical father Jazz felt manipulative.
But that shouldn’t be a deal breaker. The collective performances in this film are superlative; and just like Jazz, it’s unthreatening and entertaining.
With this film, Khan — who’s a master of urbane, city-slicker roles — is back in his groove and we have just discovered a new Bollywood talent with Alaya. She makes a remarkable debut with this zany relationship drama. Her character is purely vanilla, but Alaya makes it convincing.
It was also wonderful to see Dubai-bred actress Kubbra Sait in action. She plays Jazz’s hairdresser and friend who’s almost like his sounding board and conscience. Sait is wonderfully grounded in her role. The scene in which she tells off Jazz for hitting on her is pure comic gold.
While this relationship drama will fuel the disturbing narrative that it’s up to women to straighten out immature men and that a man can be happy only if he ticks the conventional boxes of marriage and family, there’s no denying the fun that’s waiting to be had in this film. Don’t be shy to put a ring on this film.
Don’t miss it!
Film: Jawaani Jaaneman
Director: Nitin Kakkar
Cast: Saif Ali Khan, Alaya F, Tabu and Kubbra Sait
Stars: 3.5 out of 5