Offspring or other relatives of famous names in Hindi films have had mixed success at stardom. Hrithik Roshan, Sanjay Dutt, and Abhishek Bachchan are only a handful of “star-sons” who have gained stardom. Enter Jaane Tu, and producer Aamir Khan’s nephew, Imran Khan. Lanky, pretty, and camera-shy, Imran Khan nicely bridges a successful generational transition in a pedigreed family that reaches back half a century to famed director (Aamir Khan’s uncle) Nasir Hussain’s 1957 Tumsa Nahin Dekha.
Writer/director/lyricist Tyrewala is perfectly in groove with a Gen-Y mindset (and the film’s target audience) in delightfully exploiting a career-and-romance catharsis that plagues recent graduates. The decidedly middle-class upperclassman Jai (Imran Khan) likes nothing better than spending time with his goofy co-ed homies who are anchored by Jai’s on-again, off-again, rich best friend Aditi (D’Souza). Jai and Aditi’s undefined alliance and friendship is put to task when each of them begins dating someone else.
Tyrewala’s filming style never waivers from the teen worldview. All parties, all characters, and just about every scene is brought to focus through the kaleidoscopic gaze of the recent college grad. Jai’s widowed mother (Pathak Shah), for example, has an on-going row with a vengeful cop played by Rawal, who nails that mean, uniformed, constable your parents always told you to stay away from. Jai’s late father (Shah, Pathak’s real life husband) comes to “life” as a life-size portrait with which Jai’s mother has funny and life-affirming conversations.
Jaane Tu also goes on record as one of no less than half a dozen A.R. Rahman Hindi scores for 2008—itself an event for a musician who of late has only had time for one or two Hindi soundtracks in any given year. Compared to the saber-rattling, mature and medieval chord Rahman struck with Jodhaa Akbar, Jaane Tu is like a cakewalking, dance-happy, teeny bopper, all-night house party. From Rashid Ali’s confessional campus ditty “Kabhi Kabhi Aditi Zindagi” to the bring-it-on foot stomping craze ignited by “Pappu Can’t Dance,” a Rahman album hasn’t been this youth-friendly since 2002’s Saathiya.
Both Imran Khan and D’Souza grapple with their roles well. Their best support comes from Shah who—even playing dead—makes sure his son carries on honorable (and some not too honorable) family traditions, and also Rawal as the foul-mouthed, gruff, grown-up neighborhood bully. The flashback motif employed in the opening sequence sustains the romantic suspense until the very end.
Opening to both critical and box-office raves, both Jaane Tu and Imran Khan make excellent additions to a film dynasty that has to their credit such luminous historical hits as Jab Pyar Kisi Se Hota Hai (1961), Caravan (1971), Yaadon Ki Baraat (1973), Hum Kisi Se Kum Nahin (1977), Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar (1992), Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak(1988), and Taare Zameen Par (2007). All rise for a thunderous applause.
Globe trekker, aesthete, photographer, ski bum, film buff, and commentator Aniruddh Chawda writes from Milwaukee.