Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na turns 15: In Abbas Tyrewala's Imran Khan and Genelia D'Souza rom-com, fight meets flight
Abbas Tyrewala's directorial debut Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na, which released on July 4, 2008, starred Imran Khan and Genelia D'Souza as BFFs-turned-lovers.
When viewed peripherally, Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na is a romantic comedy we've watched and loved numerous times. Best friends-turned-lovers, coming-of-age after college, opposites attract — all familiar narrative strokes punctuated by that climactic airport proposal scene.
But Abbas Tyrewala's directorial debut, starring Genelia D'Souza and Imran Khan in lead roles of Aditi and Jai, benefitted immensely from its fresh language. Compounded by AR Rahman's youthful music and Abbas' intuitive lyrics and dialogues, the film's appeal also lied in the friction between the ideas of ‘fight’ and ‘flight,’ confrontation and escape, offense and defense, action and restraint.
Jai and Aditi's temperament
Early on in the film, in what could have been a classic college gang war scene, Aditi provokes the college gunda against Jai, who insists on dealing with the issue non-violently. Jai, however, gets his way out of the fight sneakily, confusing his rival who ends up befriending him. This is quite similar to later in the film, when he rescues new girlfriend Meghna from a couple of troublemakers at a bar by orchestrating the impression that she's battling AIDS.
Imran could've gone the Aamir Khan way, but unlike his uncle, Jai doesn't belong to the worlds of Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak (1988) or Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar (1992). He finds a way around violence instead of engaging in it. He's not as invested in fighting for honour, of either his girlfriend or his college. He's nicknamed Rats, and that's how he is — always on the flight.
Aditi, on the other hand, is all about giving it a good fight. Genelia plays her so feistily that she comes across as the conventional hero of the two. She drives and drops Jai home, jumps into brawls at the drop of a hat and lets his paws do the talking. No wonder she's nicknamed Meow.
Jai and Aditi's family backgrounds
Jai has been fed a story. A descendant of the royal Ranjor ka Rathore clan in Rajasthan, he's been protected by his educated, non-violent mother Savitri (Ratna Pathak Shah). She's painted his late father (Naseeruddin Shah) as an unfailingly non-violent man who lost his life while trying to stop a scuffle. When he tells her he dreamt of a man hunting down others while riding a horse and feels like it's his father, Savitri sobs and says, “Darr toh iss baat ka hai Jai ki tumhe aise sapne bhi aate hain” (it's scary that you even see these dreams). But in reality, his father was a warrior who died in the battlefield.
This friction of fight (Jai's genetic paternal inclination) and flight (what Savitri is trying to inculcate in her son) is projected masterfully through Savitri's arguments with a portrait of her husband. When she's alone, she imagines talking to the portrait, except that the portrait also talks back. He tells Savitri she should be proud of being a “shaheed ki suhagan” (a martyr's wife). but she says “pit ke zinda aate toh main zyada khush hoti.” (I'd have been happier had you turned up bruised but alive).
On the other hand, while Aditi's backstory isn't explored in as much detail, one can make out from the environment she's grown up in why she tends to lean towards fight than flight. At home, she's surrounded by men with subdued masculinity; her father is a sweet, old wine-sipping man nicknamed ‘pumpkin’ and her brother (Prateik Babbar in his debut role) is a fairly reserved guy who paints and has queer undertones in the way he dresses. Her brother knows her weakness and thus keeps provoking her often: making her angry is the only way to get her time and attention.
Jai and Aditi's dream partners
Jai and Aditi are pretty sure they're not made for each other. He prefers a peace-loving, non-confrontational girlfriend and she craves for a boyfriend who can thrash anyone who is rude to her. Little do they know, that the ‘dream’ partners they're looking for are the very places they may end up in if they continue their respective ‘flight’ and ‘fight’ ways.
Jai finds Meghna (Manjiri Fadnis), a radiant girl who loves to play the game “What's this?,” where they're supposed to come up with imaginative substitutes to a real object. While he's on the same page as her as far as their imagination is concerned, Jai eventually realises it's just her self-defense mechanism. She chooses to live in denial in order to unsee her parents who can't bear the sight of each other. Jai feels he, too, may end up like that — a horse with blinkers — if he continues to blindly believe in what his mom wants him to.
For Aditi, her fiancé Sushant (Ayaz Khan) is the ‘man’ she wants to marry. One who's ready to pick up a fight for her. But she eventually discovers he's an extremely insecure partner who turns violent when things don't go his way. The final nail in the coffin is when he physically abuses her after she confesses her love for Jai. As she witnesses Sushant jumping into a drunken brawl, Aditi realises he is what she can turn into, if she continues to endorse violence for the sake of honour.
When fight meets flight
The search for love was never meant to be outward, but only inward. Jai and Aditi had to find the missing pieces of fight and flight within, respectively. Aditi, done with the fighting, decides to take a flight, literally. Jai decides to confront his destiny as well. He beats Sushant up, goes to jail and then rides a horse to the airport.
The horse is a leitmotif throughout the film. It appears pulling the then-famous Victoria Carriage on Marine Drive or as part of a baaraat in the background. A symbol of conventional heroism, it has always been loitering around Jai. But it's only when he realises what's at stake is when Jai decides to do what he was destined to — hop on the horseback, ride the white stallion and give it a good fight to save the flight. That's when fight meets flight, Jai meets Aditi, what they want meets what they need, and Jaane Tu meets Jaane Na.