By Pankaj Sachdeva

Sujoy Ghosh adapts Keigo Higashino’s novel The Devotion of Suspect X in his latest film, Jaane Jaan. The film stars the fantastic trio of Kareena Kapoor, Jaideep Ahlawat, and Vijay Varma in the lead roles. Set in misty Kalimpong, the film is the story of a single mother, Maya (Kareena Kapoor), who gets involved in the murder of her abusive husband Ajit (named after the villain actor Ajit [?]; played by Saurabh Sachdeva). Her neighbor is the quiet mathematics teacher Naren (Jaideep Ahlawat), who is in love with her but does not have the courage to say it. Finally, there is Karan (Vijay Varma), an inspector, who comes looking for Ajit but then gets involved in solving his murder.

Jaane Jaan is not about the mystery of solving the murder, but it is about getting away from it. It remains true to the premise of The Devotion of Suspect X. At the heart of the film is a love story, and it is this love that helps the person get away with murder. This love is compared to devotion, which, to me, adds a selfless connotation to it. In devotion, there is not any expectation of getting something in return. It is the staunch dedication and fidelity in serving and protecting the beloved that the lover loses his own self in it. It is this devotion that is portrayed melancholically in Jaane Jaan. Naren was about to end his life after he learned that someone else had solved a problem he had spent ten years working on. The morning he planned to die, his new neighbor Maya knocks on his door and asks for a plumber’s number, inadvertently saving his life. Naren falls in love with her. After this, he keeps an eye on her every moment. Maya’s friend Prema (Lin Laishram) compares him to Shah Rukh Khan’s character from Darr, reminding us again of the creepiness of one-sided love. Every day in the morning, he stands in front of the mirror, practicing to speak to Maya. However, when he reaches her café, he cannot gather the courage to say those words, unable even to raise his eyes when he sees her. He is a man who is so intimidating in terms of his intellect and physique, yet he cannot order egg-fried rice in front of her.
It is because of his stalking habit that he gets an opportunity to help Maya. He figures out that there is a dead body at Maya’s place. He suggests that he can help her. When she asks why he is helping her and why he won’t get in trouble, he says, “Main phas chuka hun.” Throughout the film, he keeps saying, “Main sab sambhaal lunga.” Whatever the situation, he said he will take care of it. Maya need not worry. When she cannot help him move the body, he says he will take care of it. At times, when he could be in trouble due to some of Maya’s mistakes, he never gets angry. Main sab sambhaal lunga. He sacrificed himself for her. He even kills another man to put her out of trouble. Maya asks him why he is going to jail to save her life. Then, he reveals that it was she who saved her life, after which he became her devotee. And, now, by putting himself in jail, he would get closer to being with the first love of his life—mathematics. He is so devoted to the loves of his life—mathematics and Maya—that he is fine with going to jail for them. Devotion, after all, comes with sacrifice attached.
Naren also feels pangs of envy of the other men in Maya’s life. When he removes Ajit’s body, he looks at him and says he might not be as good-looking as him, but at least he is alive. In the same vein, he looks at his old college friend Karan and realizes that he has maintained himself well. Even though they both are the same age, he looks twice as old. He also seems to want to have more hair. In a stunning scene, he cannot stop thinking of Maya and Karan spending time together at the Karaoke bar. He repeatedly shakes his head, but all in vain. Then, he does a bit of Jujutsu in the middle of the road in the middle of the night. It is a pacifying moment that depicts that negative energy can be channeled out to forms of art. Jujutsu, after all, is a martial art.
Imtiaz Ali’s Jab We Met opens with a suicidal Aditya (Shahid Kapoor), who is thinking of ending his life by jumping from the train. At that particular moment, Geet (Kareena Kapoor) says something and stops him from jumping. She inadvertently saves his life. They become friends and separate. Then, things do not turn out as planned with Geet. She meets Aditya after a while and tells him she cannot take any more favors from him. He has already done a lot for her. Aditya gets angry and tells her that he is alive because of her. It was because of her that his business was doing well. He also returned to music in his life—all because of her. The moment when Naren opened the door and saw Maya took me to the train scene in Jab We Met. Like Geet did for Aditya, Maya saves Naren’s life and helps him return to his first love.
Kareena Kapoor saving depressed men.
Kareena Kapoor as Maya shines again. She is terrific in Jaane Jaan—not one false note. She has always been an interesting actor whose performances are worth watching. She was the best thing about Laal Singh Chaddha. She does sadness quite beautifully. Even in Reema Kagti’s Talaash, Kareena Kapoor as Rosie saves a grief-stricken Surjan (Aamir Khan) from the depths of depression. She literally and metaphorically saved his life by taking him out of the sea of grief. I did not think Maya was a mysterious character. It was quite clear to me that she was not duping the teacher. The only point I felt was that she should not have lied to Naren when she went out with Karan, which was another stunning moment. She has that star quality in that scene, and the film shows it with panache. Her face is lit in pink as a tribute to the original song Aa Jaane Jaan from Inteqam, where the stunning Helen was lit in pink. The original song Aa Jaane Jaan is also notable as it is one of Lata Mangeshkar’s few sensual songs.
Maya seems to easily cast her maya on the two men. Both were unable to not give in to her charm. She was on their mind even when not in front of them. There is a replica of the moment with Karan when Naren shakes his head to get her out of his head. Karan also keeps thinking of her and imagining himself with her. He also had to shake his head and come back to reality. The film uses the same background score in the two scenes. It is also worth mentioning that we never see the sexual component of Naren’s love. Karan imagines himself kissing Maya, but with the teacher, no lust is shown, even in his dreamy moments. Initially, it feels like the character of Karan is not on par with the other two. But I watched parts of the film again, and I realized he was quite funny. Starting from the time when he says that he also thought he would lose the fight to the way he flirts with Maya—Karan is also quite a nice character but not as memorable as Naren. Jaideep Ahlawat as Naren is made to look not as handsome, but then he brings a quiet dignity to his performance. Like the way he smiles, the way he is awkward, the way he says he does not know who will love him.
At one point in the film, a character remarks that Maya is a single mother who is unlikely to be a murderer. Karan argues back that why cannot a single mother be a murderer? This was also the premise of Ghosh’s Kahaani that a pregnant woman is unlikely to be thought of as a criminal and will not raise any suspicions. Even in Badla and Kahaani 2, Ghosh has depicted mothers taking revenge. Additionally, like it was in his other films, Jaane Jaan also pays tribute to the old songs littered throughout the film. At some points, the songs are even hard to hear clearly. Almost all of Ghosh’s films have this tribute to the old songs. Jaane Jaan, as mentioned before, is titled after the song Aa Jaane Jaan from Inteqam.
The film has cinematography by Avik Mukhopadhyay. Many of the frames in Jaane Jaan reminded me of Shoojit Sircar’s Sardar Udham, which also had cinematography by Avik. Both films have a motif where the frames have contrasting shades of blue and yellow, and there is often a glowing lamp that lights them. It all comes out aesthetically, giving a calming aura to the frames.
If mothers are present in Ghosh’s films, then it is logical that children will also be present. Remember, there was the ‘running hot water’ boy Bishnu in Kahaani. Likewise, in Jaane Jaan, there is a running track where Naren and his student Dipok (Markush Lepcha) keep playing a game of snatching the coin from the hand. Dipok always loses. Naren keeps telling him that his aim should not be to win but to save the coin. As a teacher, he always wants his students to win. When the police are close to catching him, Maya tells him they are suspicious of him. She adds that all people think he is in love with her, but she believes there is nothing between them. At the moment, Naren does not hear what she is saying and loses his attention. He then comes inside his room and starts crying. The next day, he plays the same game again with Dipok and finally loses. There is a faint smile on his face. Perhaps he realized that he had forgotten the same lesson that he gave to Dipok, that his focus should not be on winning the game but on saving the coin. Likewise, his focus should not be on winning Maya but on saving her. And to save her, he needs to let go. Devotion, after all, comes with sacrifice attached.
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