09 February 2011

Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro - Jai Arjun Singh

Pages: 270
Price: 250
Published in: 2010
Publishers: Harper Collins- India

One often rues the lack of quality film writing in India, and in such a context, Jai Arjun Singh's debut non-fiction book on the 1983s cult classic, Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro is an earnest and thoroughly engaging read. For a while now, the 32 year old has been running an extremely popular blog, Jabberwock, where he pens down his lucid, well-thought out views on books and films. That apart, the author has been freelancing with various leading publications. Among other things, the writer's most admirable quality is his ability to elegantly guide his reader through the journey, gently but firmly interjecting and alerting through anecdotes, observations and counter points, without ever turning this into a self-indulgent, showy exercise.

It's obvious the author has deep reverence for the film, which is what prompted him to take up the endeavour. Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro has a lot of 'firsts' to make it interesting as a subject. It was possibly time a film was making a serous social commentary, through a comedy. Its credit roll remains one of the most extraordinary, with a striking list comprising of stalwarts who were all making a beginning of sorts with this unconventional film. Besides Naseeruddin Shah, who was the only well-off star among the cast and crew, there was a whole list of assistants and actors (doing bit roles), who went on to become famous with their subsequent works. There was Sudhir Mishra and Vidhu Vinod Chopra (both prominent directors today) who worked as assistants on Jaane Bhi... The actors included Satish Shah, Bhakti Barve, Pankaj Kapoor, Satish Kaushik, Anupam Kher (he played the role of an ineffective, funny goon called Disco Killer, but his part had to be edited out), Neena Gupta, Om Puri, Ravi Baswani - all of whom became part of this mad-cap film for different reasons.

The book, expectedly, is full of interesting anecdotes. It was fashionable then to criticise NFDC, the government body that provided funds for out-of-the-box, socially relevant films. But in the case of Jaane Bhi Do..NFDC played a hugely constructive role, not only ensuring that the film got made in the bold manner in which it was conceived but also hammering it on DD so that everyone ended up haeing it. It's also interesting to know that Naseeruddin Shah was not very happy with the way the film was shaping up. On more than one occasion, he would sulk, refusing to have his lunch when his objections were turned down by director Kundan Shah. The one refrain on the sets was the scarce and boring food, because of the low budget. The crew would have to frequently make do with vada pao and Sudhir Mishra still complains that it was 'that' film which gave him his acidity. But the passion and dedication from everyone was total, and each one completely submitted to the director's vision. In all this, the contribution of personalities like writer Ranjit Kapoor and editor Renu Saluja comes to the fore.

Jai Arjun is articulate, with not a word out of place.  He also knows how to keep the reader engaged through the 270 odd pages, small-sized book though it is. He does a thorough analysis of the film, makes objective, insightful observations, and gives us great conversational pieces with Kundan Shah (who even after all these years seems bemused and even somewhat irritated about all the overt fuss and intellectualism over Jaane Bhi Do...).
Certainly, more such endeavors on similar lines from other talented writers is more than welcome.


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Nayeem said...

Like others I can watch the multiple times and not get bored. You have listed all the actors who have gone on to acquire so much fame. Great work Jai Arjun Singh ji. Thanks for writing on this one.