A fine balancing act
Jyoti Sharma Bawa
Direction: Nitin Kakkar
Actors: Saif Ali Khan, Alaya F, Kubbra Sait, Tabu, Chunky Pandey
There’s a certain joy to the way Saif Ali Khan has been refusing to conform, these last few years. He’s been chased down Mumbai streets dressed in faux fur and Gwen Stefani’s ‘hair clumps’ in Kaalakandi; played a lonely, depressed cop in Sacred Games.
Jawaani Jaaneman is a turn of a different kind, a homecoming with a twist. Twenty years after Dil Chahta Hai, we meet Saif in a nightclub again. He goes home with a woman half his age, wakes up at midday, shows up for work at a company run by his elder brother (Kumud Mishra) and by late afternoon, is back at the club.
But there’s a quiet despair underlying this Peter Pan act. As then, as his character Jazz, now 45, is drinking and pouting his way through yet another day, a 21-year-old named Tia (Alaya F) turns up on his doorstep saying there’s a 33.3% chance she’s his daughter. How he navigates this relationship forms the crux of the tale.
Nitin Kakkar’s film is evocative, layered, but beautifully light on its feet. Until Tia’s mother, Ananya (Tabu) enters the frame. Then things become startlingly less self-aware. Jazz dismisses her as a hippy and a drug addict; and in some ways, the film does too. It is to Tabu’s credit that she manages to bring so much colour to her one-dimensional part. As a woman who found nirvana ‘somewhere between sambhog and hashish’, Tabu is a hoot.
Overall, though, the centre still holds. Alaya is vulnerable and honest. Saif is endearing, self-aware; you ache and root for him. His comic timing keeps the film breezy. The ensemble cast – led by Kubbra Sait as Jazz’s friend-cum-stylist and Farida Jalal as his stressed mother – is fantastic. A fine balancing act, all in all.