Jawaani Jaaneman movie review: Saif Ali Khan and Alaya F come together in Nitin Kakkar’s drama about a middle-aged playboy finding redemption in his 21-year-old daughter he never knew he had.
Cast: Saif Ali Khan, Alaya F, Kumud Mishra, Kubbra Sait, Tabu, Chunky Pandey
Director: Nitin Kakkar
There was a certain joy that I took in Saif Ali Khan’s refusal to conform these last few years. While his contemporaries played by-the-book, here was an actor who was being chased around Mumbai’s roads dressed in faux fur and Gwen Stefani’s ‘hair clumps’ in Kaalakandi or ready to throw the cop trope under the bus with Sacred Games’ Sartaj Singh. The experiments, alas, largely came at the cost of success.
In comparison, Jawaani Janeman is homecoming for Saif. I could write the names of all the films where he has played Peter Pan but honestly, that would just be for increasing the verbiage. Dil Chahta Hai established a trend and Bollywood just doesn’t have the heart to retire it.
Watch the trailer for Jawaani Jaaneman:
Ergo, almost 20 years later, we meet Saif in a nightclub, dressed in a tee inspired by a heavy metal band as he eyes a woman half his age on the next barstool. He goes home with her, wakes up at midday, shows up at office run by his elder brother (Kumud Mishra) for two hours and it is back to the club. Only it has been five years since the last time Saif was a man-child (in a film called Happy Ending; helpful tip: it didn’t end happily for anybody including the audience) and the age is showing.
The shadow of mortality is lengthening and the jibes of ‘grandpa’ follow Saif’s Jazz everywhere. Jazz is not the one to throw in the towel so easily; he has drink-offs on bar tables and petulant tantrums off them. But when a 21-year-old Tia (Alaya F) shows up at his doorstep with a 33.3% chance that she can be his daughter, it is too much for the 45-year-old playboy. The rest is him learning to accept his relationship, love and, most importantly, his age.
What Jawaani Janeman gets bang-on is its light tone and the sense that it is in on the joke. The fact that the film is set in London, apparently beyond the purview of conservative Indian morality, makes it easier to show a modern Indian family. Nobody sits on judgment on Saif’s lifestyle or pregnancy out of wedlock. However, once Tabu’s Ananya enters the picture, things become less self-aware. Jazz dismisses her as a hippy and a drug addict; and in some ways, the film does too. It is to the credit of Tabu that she brings so much colour to her one-dimensional part. As a woman who found nirvana ‘somewhere between sambhog and hashish’, Tabu is a hoot.
Alaya F is a good fit for Tia, the girl out to find her dad. Vulnerable and honest, her chemistry with Saif lifts the film. Jawaani Jaaneman is, however, Saif’s vehicle. His self-aware portrayal of Jazz is endearing, making us root for him. His comic timings keep the film breezy, aided as he is by Hussain and Abbas Dalal’s dialogues. The ensemble cast – led by Kumud, Kubbra Sait as Jazz’s friend-cum-stylist and Farida Jalal as his stressed mother – is fantastic.
Nitin Kakkar’s film does a fine balancing act of keeping it fun and enjoyable while showing heart when needed. However, there is a subplot about housing redevelopment that is unnecessarily shoe-horned in the film. Perhaps the intention is to underline Jazz’s change of heart but it is one of the few things that feels forced in this largely likable drama. Having said that, someone should start a tally of how many times Saif came-of-age on film; we already have one about him coming-of-middle-age.