In his twenty-year long career as a filmmaker, director Sujoy Ghosh has made films across different genres. While ‘Jhankaar Beats’ (2003) was a drama/comedy driven by music, ‘Home Delivery’ (2004) was an out-and-out comedy. ‘Aladin’ (2009), on the other hand, was a fantasy drama. After the success of ‘Kahaani’ (2012), which was a thriller, one saw Sujoy largely making films in this genre. Whenever he directed and produced (‘Ahalya’, ‘Kahaani 2’, ‘Badla’, ‘Typewriter’ and ‘Lust Stories 2’) or just produced (‘Te3n’, ‘Bob Biswas’ and ‘Blind’), this was a genre one saw him keep going back to. Sujoy’s new film ‘Jaane Jaan’, which has just dropped on Netflix’ and features Kareena Kapoor Khan, Jaideep Ahlawat and Vijay Verma in principal roles, is an official adaptation of Japanese author Keigo Higashino’s mystery thriller novel ‘The Devotion of Suspect X’.
Maya D’Souza (Kareena Kapoor Khan) runs a small café called Tiffin in Kalimpong, a small hilly town in West Bengal. Maya’s life revolves around her teenage daughter Tara (Naisha Khanna), the only family she has. Maya barely has any friends and most of her social interactions are with the two employees that work in her café. Naren (Jaideep Ahlawat), Maya’s neighbour, likes her but the shy and awkward mathematics teacher does not have the guts to confess his feelings to her. Maya is content with the simple life she and daughter lead in Kalimpong. However, one day a man from her past (Saurabh Sachdeva) comes back in to her life and that sets in motion a turn of events which leads to chaos in her life. With the arrival of inspector Karan Anand (Vijay Verma), things get even more difficult for Maya.
Almost a decade back, in 2014, one came across reports stating that Ekta Kapoor and Sujoy Ghosh were planning to adapt ‘The Devotion of Suspect X’ into a film. As per the reports, Katrina Kaif was approached to play the lead role in the film. Had the film been made then, we would have, most likely, seen it with a different cast. One would have also got the opportunity to see the film in the theatres as there was no streaming culture in India then. What’s truly interesting is that Jeethu Joseph’s ‘Drishyam’ (2013), which went on to be made in multiple Indian languages later, came out in 2013, almost a year before we first heard about Ekta and Sujoy planning to adapt ‘The Devotion of Suspect X’. Those who have read the book and seen ‘Drishyam’ would, perhaps, feel that writer – director got inspired by the narrative created by the Japanese author and created his own world out of it.
While Jeethu made some ‘inspired’ choices, there was a lot of originality and innovation with which he told the story and that’s what made all the difference. Sujoy’s film, as the opening credits suggest, is a faithful adaptation of the book. In that respect, this is a fairly well-made film with enough merits that make it watchable. However, if you have already seen ‘Drishyam’, you would feel you are being made to go through some of the beats you witnessed in the film all over again. Of course, a few elements that one came across in ‘Drishyam’ are here but the film has a lot of new things to offer to the audience as well. The last half hour of the film, especially, would take the viewer (those who haven’t read the book) by complete surprise and because of that, one could say that as a murder mystery or suspense thriller, the film works.
The film, however, has many loose ends and there are many chapters or sub-plots which do not leave the desired impact. The circumstances which lead to Karan suspecting Maya are too convenient. One wishes Sujoy, who has also written the screenplay, had worked on this part of the story in a more interesting manner. Even when Naren gets to know that there is a possibility of Karan finding out about the lie he told him about his café visits, he doesn’t make any effort to ensure he doesn’t get to know about it. There are many scenes, both in the first and second half, which come across as fillers and do not let the film become as engaging as it could have been.
Kalimpong, which was also seen in Sujoy’s ‘Kahaani 2’, is like one of the characters in the film. The charm and eeriness of the small town have been captured effectively by Avik Mukhopadhyay. The background score (Shor Police) is highly evocative. The production design (Rajesh Choudhary, Madhumita Sen and Ajay Sharma) adds a lot of value to the film. The dialogues (Sujoy Ghosh and Raj Vasant) are very well-written, with many of the lines being memorable. The action (Heera Yadav) is realistic and choreographed very well.
Kareena Kapoor Khan lights up every frame she appears in and delivers a splendid performance. While she brings the distress of Maya to the fore effectively, the actress is also wonderful in some of the lighter scenes, like the one at the karaoke bar. Jaideep Ahlawat delivers an extremely nuanced performance which itself would make you want to revisit the film. One wishes Vijay Verma’s character had a little more depth. As an actor, however, he is as good as ever. Naisha Khanna gets to show her mettle as a performer in a few key scenes and does well. Karma Takapa delivers a likeable performance as Sundar Singh.
With ‘Jaane Jaan’ streaming on Netflix, one feels happy about the fact that this long-in-the-planning adaptation of ‘The Devotion of Suspect X’ is finally out. The film could have offered a lot more than what it does and the presence of the ‘Drishyam’ franchise doesn’t help either. However, as a standalone film, ‘Jaane Jaan’ has enough meat to keep you engaged throughout its duration.