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Screen presence and absence

Screen presence and absence

As Maya, Kareena Kapoor Khan blends vulnerability with audacity, bringing that piquant quality to her role.



Nonika Singh

Sujoy Ghosh, the master storyteller of suspense thrillers like ‘Kahaani’, popular Bollywood star Kareena Kapoor Khan who makes her OTT debut, the incredibly talented Jaideep Ahlawat and Vijay Varma — it is indeed a volatile combination. Since the bar of expectations is sky high, we are all eyes and ears. Indeed, the film opens well. Set in Kalimpong, it is a visually enriching melange (courtesy, cinematographer Avik Mukhopadhyay) that deepens the mystery. The almost deglamourised and charming Kareena plays the mother, Maya D’Souza, of a teenager. Jaideep as Naren is her neighbour, a nerdy kind of mathematics professor addressed by one and all as ‘Teacher’. Though socially awkward, he could teach a thing or two to not only his students, but soon, we learn, the police too.

Like many films such as ‘Andhadhun’, while murder is at centre of the drama and tension, this is no whodunit. Early on, we learn who has murdered whom. The crux and the thrill now lie in finding out whether the murderer will be nabbed, or whether the voluntary accomplice who was not complicit in crime but in disposing of the body would be able to hoodwink the police. Vijay Varma, who has played the twisted guy for too long, is the cop Karan Anand, a smart alec at that, who can put two and two together. But what if those he is chasing are smarter, and truth even simpler than a textbook problem of addition? Truth, as Naren says, is right in front of you, only if you would care to see.

For a while, the cat and mouse game is engaging. Not the least of it because with ample support from Kareena and Vijay, Jaideep anchors the film. The half-smile, the confidence that stems from his knowledge of his field and the insecurity writ on his face when it comes to facing his love interest… he is a delight to watch. Mark the scene where he practices in front of the mirror as to what he is going to say to the woman he is smitten by. His mathematical expositions are simply delectable. Only, by the time the film ends, the additions and subtractions the narrative indulges in are not as interesting as his character.

If A is equal to B is equal to C, then A is equal to C. A rather simple mathematical equation, he tells us. The writing attempts to be a trifle too intelligent, yet the twists that follow in the climax don’t add up. In the end, the thesis of the film boils down to a rather preposterous resolution.

Actually, if you pay attention to the title of the book, ‘The Devotion of Suspect X’ by famous Japanese author Keigo Higashino, the film is inspired by, you are likely to reach the conclusion rather easily. That is not to say that the film does not have its moments. Kareena blends vulnerability with audacity. Very much in form, she brings that piquant quality to her Maya. In fact, the games that involve its three key players have the right tinge of excitement.

Sujoy Ghosh, who has also written the screenplay, builds a climatic high only to let you down finally. The unlikely pairing has that element of freshness but with love being a one-sided affair, it’s unable to tap into the premise or possible chemistry between the ‘solid hot’ Kareena and an obsessive Jaideep. Sparks do fly between Vijay and Kareena, especially in the karaoke scene with the song ‘Aa Jaane Jaan, Aa Mera Ye Husn Jawaan’ (from ‘Inteqaam’) serving as more than a filler.

The X factor we know can change the entire dynamics of not just mathematics, but life too. Only, here, the mystique of X is confined to fine performances. We don’t mind a murderer going scot-free, but what could have been a wickedly delicious and morally ambiguous dilemma ends up as a rather dissatisfying conundrum. Streaming on Netflix, ‘Jaane Jaan’ will not steal or stop your heart and is at best, watchable.

#Bollywood #Kareena Kapoor #Kareena Kapoor Khan


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