Reviewing the Reviews: Vanity Unfair

19 Sep,2011

Jaana Pehchana

Key Cast: Sachin, Ranjeeta, Birbal, Vikram Sahu, Mehmood Junior

Written and Directed By: Sachin

Produced by: Ajit Kumar Barjatya, Kamal Kumar Barjatya

 

One of the essentials of a movie sequel is that the original should have been a great hit, or at least a film that audiences remember with affection. And there really is no point for a sequel coming out 33 years later—by which time the original is not even a distant memory. So Jaana Pehchana, the very belated sequel to Hiren Nag’s Ankhiyon Ke Jharokon Se (1978), is just a vanity exercise for director Sachin Pilgaonkar, who was the toothy, curly-mopped, cutesy protagonist of the original, opposite Ranjeeta (who retired years ago after a fairly successful but also unremarkable career).

The Rajshris, producers of AKJS and several small-budget, non-star-cast films in that period, have refused to change with the times. Their last monster hit was Hum Aapke Hain Koun in 1994, and for Jaana Pehchana, they have used the same strategy of releasing it in one moviehall – the delightfully retro Liberty. HAHK had picked up, thanks to its stars (Salman Khan-Madhuri Dixit) and popular music.  Jaana Pehchana mostly retreads the old movie in the form of lengthy flashbacks and reuses Ravindra Jain’s score that now sounds too high-pitched and annoying.

Very few bothered to review Jaana Pehchana, and obviously it comes out rather poorly in comparison with the old film, which was hardly a classic to begin with—plucked as it was from 1970 Hollywood weepie Love Story. It’s not very likely that many of the current crop of reviewers would have seen the original—though they will get more than a glimpse in Jaana Pehchana.  And seeing Mehmood Junior, Birbal and the once ubiquitous Rama Kaka provides unintentional giggles.

Our take: The stars have arrived in 2011 in decent shape, but did anyone miss Sachin and Ranjeeta so much as to want to see them romance again? The Rajshri style of filmmaking looks almost primitive by  today’s sophisticated standards, but it is also equally true that filmmakers of that period knew how to tell a story without relying on styling and digital tools.

A generous two stars by DNA’s Akanksha Naval Shetye and Soumyadipta Banerjee (two to write on this film?) and a title that states: Jaana Pehchana is the cake rather than the icing.  “While many in their upper 40s will find it entertaining and won’t mind a nostalgic trip down memory lane, the younger cine-goers may find it hard to bear. Sachin clad in white shorts running around with Ranjeeta in pretty frocks on Juhu beach; Birbal and Jr Mehmood providing comic relief, in a way that – like the bell bottoms – only suited that decade, might evoke laughter, instead of get them to relate to the romance.”

Mayank Shekhar gives the film one star and refers to the 50ish protagonists as “geriatric”—which is terribly ageist. Odd that only he remembers the Mallika Sherawat vehicle Khwahish.  He writes, “Calming allure of the earlier film comes through. The last time Bollywood remade Love Story, they’d turned the Ali MacGraw classic into a slut-fest on the rocks called Khwahish (2003), heavy publicised for its 17 kisses that the makers had kept count of. Sachin asks his girl out instead in more charming ways, “How about a date? Din mein dono saath saath rahenge, ghoomenge (We’ll spend a day together, travel around?) Any objections?” Not at all. Heroine’s floored. Hero drives her around in a two-seater convertible. This is ultimate comfort cinema in deliciously crummy Eastmancolor for those of a certain vintage that grew up appreciating film for its appealing simplicities.”

Gaurav Malani writing in the online version of the Times of India notes, “So it doesn’t matter whether you have watched the original film since you get to see most of it in the sequel. But that’s precisely why the sequel doesn’t work for you either, because with the repeat telecast of the original, it sets a direct contrast and thereby highlights the mediocrity of the sequel.”

Preeti Arora of rediff.com gives it two stars, but her headline says it all, ‘Jaana Pehchana is outdated.’  Not one to mince her words, she writes, “The characters live in a perfect world, a second opportunity for love is being handed to them but romance is something which happens once in a lifetime. Reaching out for it a second time around isn’t something selfless people indulge in. But in today’s times these perfect worlds do not exist. People do not give up on romance or life merely because one relationship ends abruptly.  It is these good-as-gold characters with outdated values in their simplistic uncomplicated world which make the film unbelievable.”

Trade journalist Komal Nahata, whose reviews appear on koimoi.com, gives the film one star but is also rather kind, praising the script and the performances. But adds, “Today’s audience may not be enthusiastic to watch yesteryear actors Sachin and Ranjeeta play the central roles in what basically remains a love story albeit with a difference. Moreover, there is an entire generation of under-30s, which may never have seen Ankhiyon Ke Jharokon Se. Of course, the film can be fully understood even if one hasn’t seen the first part (AKJS) but again, the question arises: without having seen and loved AKJS, how many among the youth (which comprises a sizeable chunk of our audience today) would be keen to watch Jaana Pehchana?”

 

 

Deepa Gahlot is a National Award-winning film reviewer and a veteran writer and commentator on the arts. She currently heads programming for Theatre and Film at the National Centre for the Performing Arts, Mumbai

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