Three music-loving yuppies, the three disparate women in their lives and one hell of a whirligig: that's the way the narrative rhythm of Jhankaar Beats goes. Shades of Dil Chahta Hai? Well, scriptwriter-director Sujoy Ghosh's maiden film is indeed an extended, if far less ambitious, version of DCH. But it is anything but a blind act of cloning.
Jhankaar Beats, a part English, part Hindi niche film, struts its stuff with style and an impressive degree of originality. The film's bright, witty and youthful script is generously peppered with consistently funny situations, hilarious one-liners and numerous feel-good moments. But what truly stands out in Jhankaar Beats is the subtlety and control Ghosh brings to bear upon the fragmented narrative.
Even the more predictable and formulaic passages - the film certainly isn't perfect - are handled with a lightness of touch that would have done Hrishikesh Mukherjee in his heyday proud. It's a fun film that redraws the parameters of Mumbai film comedy even as it resolutely purges the frame of all vestiges of formula.
Rishi (Rahul Bose) and Deep (Sanjay Suri) are buddies who work in an ad agency. While the former is facing the prospect of a messy divorce from his wife of three years, Nicky (Rinkie Khanna), the latter and his homemaker-wife Shanti (Juhi Chawla) are awaiting the birth of their second child. What yoke the two men to each other are their friendship and a fanatical love for the music of the inimitable R.D. Burman.
Drawing inspiration from their late idol, Rishi and Deep (RD, in short) aspire to win a music competition they have lost for two straight years. Their search for a guitarist leads them to Neel (Shayan Munshi), who turns out to be the New York-returned son of their employer (Vijayendra Ghatge). The young man agrees to team up with the duo provided they help him get the girl of his dream, Preeti (Riya Sen). The deal is struck and the trio gets cracking on their dual mission.
Ghosh conjures up several delightful situations that hover intriguingly between all-out humour and subtle poignancies. Every time a scene threatens to go a little heavy, it is pulled back with just the right dash of bathos. Sample this sequence as a case in point: Rishi and Nicky squabble as the latter packs a suitcase. "You don't have to leave," the adman pleads with his furious wife. "I'm not leaving," the cocky lady shoots back. Cut to Rishi outside the apartment's exit door, the suitcase next to him. A potentially loud, mushy scene is rescued from the pitfall of undue shrillness by a deft dab of levity.
The other principal comic elements that the film hinges on - the admen's struggle to coin a punch line for a condom ad poster, a provocatively attired business rival (Archana Puran Singh) who hatches a plot to deprive them of the lucrative account and a foppish male neighbour who believes control is the best form of contraception - may seem a trifle stretched at times, but Ghosh succeeds in adroitly tying up the loose ends before they actually run out of control.
The director displays even greater skill in the manner in which he handles the basic plot premise - three grown-up men hankering after a prize like schoolboys seems like an idea from a hackneyed teenyboppers musical.
But not for a moment does Ghosh let the RD craze of the protagonists run riot - the Boss remains a restrained presence at all times, bursting forth just once - in the climax - in the form of a rejigged Kishore Kumar classic, Humen tumse pyaar kitna, rendered by his son Amit Kumar. The magic works. The credit is due as much to the virtuosity of a timeless master of musical sounds as it is to the talent of a promising new filmmaker and his great cast.