|Rediff India Abroad Home | All the sections|
What makes a perfect comedy?
January 22, 2004
Two enthusiastic youngsters set up a photo studio in Mumbai.
Their excitement is shortlived. The appetising table is mercilessly vandalised.
But nothing, and I mean nothing, tramples the spirit of Sudhir Mishra (Ravi Baswani) and Vinod Chopra (Naseeruddin Shah). Idealistic as a Moral Science textbook, they believe Hum honge kamyaab ek din (We shall overcome some day).
I am speaking of Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron, a small NFDC film created by a bunch of enthusiasts with all that they had in terms of creativity and resources.
Made at a shoestring budget of roughly Rs 8-9 lakh, Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron was no blockbuster, but it contributed to cinema, like any film ought to.
Somehow, I can't resist drawing a parallel with a line from the The Lord of The Rings - The Fellowship of The Ring by J R R Tolkein. In one of the chapters, elf queen Galadriel comforts hobbit Frodo Baggins by saying, "Even the smallest person can change the course of future".
In my opinion, that is precisely what Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron did. Irrespective of its commercial fate, it was a universal hit: it grew beyond the realms of art and commercial cinema and is unanimously loved by one and all.
The crew is not far behind. Sudhir Mishra who assisted Kundan Shan on the film as well as co-wrote the story and screenplay is a director, though his recently released Chameli opened to mixed reactions. Vidhu Vinod Chopra was the production controller and appeared in a brief cameo as Dushaasan in Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron. Now an acclaimed director, Chopra notched a winner in Munnabhai MBBS, which he produced and co-wrote. Binod Pradhan and the late Renu Saluja handled the cinematography and editing.
Another bit of trivia is that the names of the lead characters -- Vinod Chopra and Sudhir Mishra -- were derived from the above-mentioned personalities.
Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron is a comedy unlike any. It is HUMOROUS. Yet you cannot ignore the underlining layer of sarcasm in the subject that mocks the existing corruption.
This is how it all begins: two photographers -- Vinod and Sudhir -- set out to make an honest living only to be manipulated by Shobha (Bhakti Barve), the shrewd and hypocrite editor of Khabardar newspaper.
Legalities mean nothing to him: "Kanoon aam aadmi ke liye hai. Tarneja ke liye nahi [The law is for commoners. Not for Tarneja]." He doesn't fancy the fourth estate either. In logon ko Bengal ki khadi ya Arab saagar mein dubon dena chahiye [The press should be dumped in Bay of Bengal or Arabian Sea], he scoffs.
Tarneja and his sidekicks -- Ashok (Satish Kaushik) and Priya (Neena Gupta) -- bribe the greedy Commissioner D'Mello (Satish Shah) with cash, estate and Swiss chocolate cake to get their tenders passed. Remember the "Thoda khao, thoda pheko. Maza aayega [Eat some, throw some. It's good fun]!" sequence?
There is another contender vying for D'Mello's attention: Ahuja (Om Puri). No less creepy than Tarneja, the perpetually drunk Ahuja baits the Commissioner with more money. The latter is more than willing to comply. Tarneja learns of this deceit and bumps off D'Mello.
Meanwhile, Vinod and Sudhir accidentally discover a picture that shows Tarneja murdering someone. The duo uncovers the dead body. It's D'Mello. But this is no ordinary dead body. This one's got a knack of getting away. In a hilarious encounter with an inebriated Ahuja, D'Mello finds his way into Ahuja's guesthouse.
After a series of confusions, goof-ups and eye-openers, Vinod and Sudhir resolve to take the dead body and hand it over to the police. But D'Mello is chased relentlessly in burkhas and Mahabharata costumes by Tarneja, Ahuja and Shobhaji, followed by a grand finale amidst the Mahabharata play.
Just recollecting these classic one-liners is enough to tickle the funny bone:
There was not a single song in the film. But Vanraj Bhatia's fine background score moved in perfect rhythm with the film's swift pace. The zingy beats reflected the duo's adventure; the gentle violin suggested a hint of possible romance between Vinod and Shobhaji.
Another interesting aspect of the film was Mumbai, a city full of colourful personalities with diverse morals and ethics. Tarneja, Ahuja, Ashok, Priya, D'Mello and Shobhaji represented these vivid colours through their diverse characters. The middle class man who just wants his daily bread (read banana in JBDY's case) through honest means and possesses an undying respect for life was aptly portrayed by Vinod and Sudhir.
Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron had a dream cast. The acting was spontaneous and the comic timing was perfect. Shah and Baswani shared an amazing tuning. Pankaj Kapur's unapologetic dishonesty balanced Satish Kaushik's clumsiness. Bhakti Barve's ice maiden act was convincing.
But Om Puri's flawless performance deserves special mention. Also, Satish Shah made one hell of a dead body.
Kundan Shah's debut film became the Sholay of his career. Like Ramesh Sippy, Shah could never better Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron. His Kabhi Haan Kabhi Naa had the old touch but it wasn't the same.
Two decades after its release, JBDY is still topical. The corruption persists. The common man still gets taken for a ride.
Here's a wild thought: what if the film were to be remade with the same technical team but different actors?
Here's my pick:
What do you think? Who would your cast be?
Let me know!Feel free to share your experiences with stars and your views on films! I will try and incorporate it in this column. And do let me know about films you would like to discuss.
Email Sukanya Verma!