- Jawaani Jaaneman
- Directed by: Nitin Kakkar
- Written by: Abbas Dalal
- Starring: Saif Ali Khan, Tabu, Alaya Furniturewala, Kubbra Sait, Chunky Pandey, Kumud Mishra, Farida Jalal and Dante Alexander.
- Classification: PG
- Running time: 119 mins
It’s a bit of a running joke in Bollywood – aging male stars romancing women half their age, sometimes even younger. Jawaani Jaaneman has a bit of fun with the idea.
The film features a fun-loving manchild as its main character. The type of guy who shudders at the thought of settling down and being saddled with a wife and kid. But then a young woman claiming to be his daughter enters his life, and teaches him that it isn’t too bad to own your age. A breezy dramedy that delivers some laughs at the beginning, Jawaani Jaanmen is let down by a tired script that doesn’t deliver enough of an emotional punch at the end.
Jazz (Saif Ali Khan) is a 40-year-old real estate broker living the high life in Hounslow, a London suburban town. He barely works, leaving such tedious life affairs for his brother and business partner Dimpy (Kumud Mishra) to take the lead on. Instead, Jazz can be usually found at his regular hair-dye appointment at a salon where another friend Rhea (Kubbra Sait) works, pumping iron to maintain his bulging bicep physique or using the same old line to flirt with young women at a club owned by another friend Rocky (Chunky Pandey).
At the club one day, Jazz meets a young girl Tia (Alaya Furniturewala), who wants to have a personal discussion with him. Jazz takes her home. In a scene played for laughs, but which ends up being borderline creepy, Jazz tries to put the moves on Tia before discovering he might be her father.
The rest of the film follows Jazz’s journey to come to terms with fatherhood, and all that it entails. As it happens, he has a chance for a big do-over. A series of shenanigans follow, especially after Tia’s boyfriend Rohan (Dante Alexander) and her mother Ananya (Tabu) arrive. Turns out Ananya is a pot-loving hippie, who’s troubled by Jazz’s negative energy.
A real estate deal gone bad adds some unnecessary dramatic tension. But you know that it will end well, and this kooky family will somehow come together. A veteran at playing playboys in movies such as Cocktail, Khan breezes through the role of Jazz. In her film debut, Furniturewala brings a wide-eyed innocence and genuine charm to her role as a daughter looking for a family. It’s always a treat to see Tabu deliver deadpan one-liners, no matter how nonsensical they may be written.
The film could have had more depth, had it grounded itself in its setting. The Punjabi community in Hounslow is very specific, as evident in Bend It Like Beckham. Jazz as a perpetually broke real estate agent could have been an opportunity for some neat observations about that community, even in a comic setting. But Khan and the rest of the Indian cast aren’t given a chance to dig deep. They are strangely very Indian, and end up speaking English with a slight American versus British – or more specifically Hounslow accent.
During the opening credits, we learn that Jawaani Jaaneman has been adapted from an Argentine film Igualita A Mi. It’s also reminiscent of the Hugh Grant-starring About A Boy, in which a rich, middle-aged Londoner befriends a young boy, who eventually helps him grow up. But where About A Boy succeeded in showing us a genuine change of heart in its lead character, Jawaani Jaaneman’s attempt to adapt it to a Bollywood sensibility ends up being too formulaic.
Jawaani Jaaneman opened across Canada on Jan. 31.
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