Everyone, please welcome Shirish Kunder to the Gentleman's Club of Direction! And, it's a grand entry indeed in what is one of the finest directorial efforts of this year after Rang De Basanti and Lage Raho Munnabhai.
When anyone mentions musicals, I can't help but think of 4-hour long wedding videos in the guise of movies like Hum Aapke Hain Koun. Finally, here's a musical which tries to break the mould of traditional Hindi film story-telling with an innovative, out-of-the-box approach. The songs are seamlessly integrated within the story and they succeed in moving the story forward.
Well, let's see what the basic plot is: Suhaan (Salman) is the dude trying to hitch Agastya (Akshay) the geek with his estranged wife, Piya (Preity). In the process of playing cupid, Sallu realises he still has the hots for Preity and voila, we have a love triangle. Holy Criminey!!! The movie moves with dizzy abandon and single-mindedness from Kunder to tell a story which doesn't adhere to the concept that a love triangle has to fall in the trappings of a tragedy a la Sangam or tears and heartbreak a la Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam.
The cinematography is brilliant and vibrant, bringing New York City to life making it an important part of the narrative. Gulzar's lyrics are simply beautiiful conveying a lot through the use of simple Hindi and Urdu words. How I wish his lyrics were used in more films rather than mundane lyrics churned by Sameer et company. Anu Malik's music has always been a bone of contention. Here's a music director who, on one hand unabashedly lifts tunes from the West like he did in Auzaar and, on the other hand, composes beautiful music like in Border.
The Anu Malik in Jaan-e-Mann is the latter one who dazzles us with some great compositions most notably, Sau Dard, Ajnabee Shaher, and Humko Maloom Hai. Speaking of beautiful music brings me to the topic on choreography and Farah Khan. Humko Maloom Hai is one of the best choreographed songs in Hindi cinema for a long time. Farah's work is definitely one of the highlights of the movie and a reason to avoid a rest-room break.
Finally, lets see how the dude, the geek and the beauty fared. Lets start with the beauty first. Preity Zinta really doesn't have to do anything different from what she has been doing in the Karan Johar / Yash Chopra kind of movies -- look dazzling, flash those dimples every now and then, and yes, cry a little. Having said that, she delivers a good performance.
As the geek, Akshay does a marvelous job and your heart goes out to him. Here is an actor who has broken through his wooden stereotype and is now definitely one of the best performers around. As the awkward silent admirer and the wannabe suitor who finds himself unable to carry a conversation, Akshay's portrayal of Agastya with his goofy laughter would feature in one of his best performances till date.
Now, over to the dude. Salman's Suhaan in Jaan-e-Mann is all keen intensity and passion. Salman's chemistry with Akshay is heartwarming and funny at the same time. The emotional scenes are heart-tugging and every time Sallu cried, I could hear sniffles in the theatre. This is definitely Salman's finest performance after Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam and definitely the best performance of his career so far.
Jaan-e-Mann will have its share of detractors. But, isn't it time that someone stepped up and decided to make a musical love-story that doesn't need the 7 song format with the mandatory 4 pre-engagement songs with the main leads, the engagement song with the saas and sasur, the song with Tommy the dog, and finally, the wedding song?
Kunder stepped up, people.
Kiran Kamath, 30, is currently based in Houston, Texas, USA, and works at a software firm.