Monday, April 9, 2012

Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro (Kundan Shah, 1983)

A rare gem in the history of Hindi cinema.  Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro is a dark comedy from an expert filmmaker Kundan Shah. Vinod (Naseeruddin Shah) and Sudhir (Ravi Baswani) are two friends who want to start-up their own photo studio. The business prospects seem grim and gloomy for them when they are approached by Shobha (Barve), editor of a newspaper named “Khabardaar”. While both of them are equally besotted with Shobha, she exploits their feelings and assigns them the task of spying Police commisioner D’Mello (Satish Shah) and property builder Tarneja (Pankaj Kapoor). D’Mello and Tarneja are involved in an illegal deal. The photographer-cum-spy duo sense a massive web of corruption and bribery the ultimate goal of which is to win the tender for building a flyover in the city of Bombay. While spying, Sudhir and Vinod uncover a murder but remain in dark about the identity of the killer. They manage to recover the corpse as evidence, but eventually lose it. What follows is a long-drawn-out chase with the bad guys that meanders into the oddest of places. This is a crisp and well-directed film that has an excellent cast. Baswani and Shah with their comedic acumen and clodhopping adventures make the silver screen burst into a laughter riot. Pankaj Kapoor, Satish shah and Om Puri adequately represent the bad guys withe their particular idiosyncrasies. Bhakti Barve registers  a sharp performance as the shrewd Shobaji. The movie doesn’t have songs, a trademark of bollywood, except for maybe the hummable “Hum honge kaamyaab”. As a viewer one must be struck by the frankness and naiveté of the images. There is no attempt to intellectualise the comedy. The burden of humor entirely rests on disbelief. As an instance, there is a hilarious scene involving a dead body in a burqa amidst a sea of burqa-clad women. And of course the Mahabharata (The great Indian epic) episode which entailed a delightful spoof of the Ram Lilas we have all seen at some point in our lives. And yet the whole episode never caused any outrage. May be this is a special quality of the film itself – its nonchalant and innocent attitude allowed it to take on both holy cows and ugly underbellies of cosmopolitan India.
Ultimately, Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro is at the heart about the loss of innocence and the breaking of ideals. At the end of the day, in the film, cynicism over idealism and the collective dishonesty triumph over the individual honesty. The two main characters  expose the builder-politician-journalist mafia in all its ugliness, such a contemporary theme in today's India. Beneath its foamy and frivolous exterior lies the real and sad truths of life. The movie ends with Vinod and Sudhir walking out of jail, still in their striped jail pajamas. In the backdrop the spirited anthem, Hum honge kaamyab, hum honge kaamyab ek din, plays mournfully, may be hinting at hope. For the uninitiated, Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro can best be described as a breathless satire of cosmopolitan India.

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