Khelein Hum Jee Jaan Sey: Ashutosh Gowariker’s latest!

Posted: December 6, 2010 in Uncategorized
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I have too much respect for Ashutosh Gowariker’s work, to let his latest film pass. I mean, he’s the one who gave us excellent films like Lagaan, Swades and Jodhaa Akbar. So I was keen to check out Khelein Hum Jee Jaan Sey.

Which is why, when on the first weekend of the film, for a Sunday evening show, I found the theatre very sparsely filled, I realized that this one’s not working for him. At least at the box office.

And when in the first few minutes of the film, you see a two long pig tailed Deepika Padukone and her friend, singing a song, that looked like it came straight out of Ashok Kumar’s days (Ashok Kumar as a HERO, mind you!), I had my worst fears confirmed. That Ashutosh has probably got it wrong this time around. At least from the box office point of view. This is not going to work with today’s audience, for sure!

So before I write more about KHJJS, let’s take a quick peek at AG’s earlier work.

Lagaan was also a period film. BUT it had Aamir Khan’s magic. It had awesome music from A R Rahman (which was NOT period music!), and it had a sports story, where India beats England. This works! As a fictional piece of period movie, AG had the opportunity to use cricket for one, and let India win, for another. Those were great winning points, and which is where Lagaan went on to become the great hit that it became.

Swades was a great story too. Tugged the hearts of modern day India, and especially NRIs. SRK magic, this time. And it worked again.

Then came Jodhaa Akbar. Again a period film. Large scale sets. Phenomenal work by Hrithik and Aishwarya. Some romance, good songs again. All in all, impressive enough to score big. Very big.

Now coming to KHJJS, it is closer to Lagaan than any other of his previous work. But the story is real. Not that much drama (perhaps because it is real – you can dramatize fiction, but facts are to show!). And unfortunately, amongst all the actors AG has worked with, Abhishek is truly not in the same class. So the draw is not there, from the star’s point of view then.

The fact that it is a real story, one of the many in India’s struggle for independence, it is also a story where the Indian protagonist does NOT win (we don’t win, till we actually win in 1947 – all others were only attempts). So that is again what Indian audiences do not really like to see. Losing to the British!!

In the backdrop of these challenges – and I am sure AG would have appreciated these, even as he took on this project – it is a brave effort for AG to take on a story and a subject line of this kind. I would appreciate AG for this effort, then.

The story itself is amazing. From being a chapter in India’s long struggle for independence. A small city in Bengal, creating a serious revolt, with help of highly motivated school children and ladies. It was an outrageous attempt, in which they almost succeeded to win freedom, for that city at least! Would have been a fantastic victory.

Amongst other things, the film reinforced my respect for Bengalis, and their involvement in India’s freedom struggle. That the Bengali kids took umbrage in the British coming and taking over their football ground, and that hurt them so badly that they were willing to join the activists fighting for freedom, shows to me that character of Bengalis. One that takes no-nonsense, and fights for the things that they believe in!

Like I had mentioned after seeing The Japanese Wife, I love seeing the real small town India, its culture, its language, etc.  And especially Bengal. Like in case of The Japanese Wife, here too, it is a pleasure to see the life of old time, small-town Bengal. I especially loved all the names, with the typical Bengali sounds, and the general language itself, with its Bengali style.

I am not sure about the new new generation in India, for whom independence is far away. Whether they will appreciate this story or not. But we are the generation that did not have much TV in our childhood, history then was part of our entertainment dosage, especially the kind that was fed to us via Amar Chitra Kathas. For us, this story, a part of that Indian freedom struggle, should definitely be of interest.

I found the film to be thought provoking in that sense. Thoughts about how such revolutionaries emerged in various parts of the country. How the British abused power and gave birth to such rebellion. About the mind of a freedom fighter, and how he manages to rally people around him. How thankful we as a country are, to have had such rebellions, that ultimately created enough pressure, to lead us to our independence.

The film is long. Yes, AG falls too much in love with his work and his raw footage. And cannot make himself to cut out more of his work. And ends up making long films. This one is no exception. This could have been a little shorter though.

The music is purposely made to look old fashioned, like it is actually from the 1930s. That makes it tough for people to be attracted to it, today!

The support cast of the kids and other actors is fine. They do a sincere job.

The challenge is with the lead actors. Deepika does not have much to do. And she does not do it! She hangs around – she does not even have any seriously significant scenes, where she has to emote strongly!

Abhishek on the other hand, disappoints. In a good role, and a perfect platform to show his prowess. But he delivers a very average performance. He had a chance to showcase for example, how he has a magnetic effect and why followers throng to him. Well, followers do throng to him, but that is as per the story. We do not see why – he does not show us the reasons. In fact, he is very subdued. Even in crisis, when the entire band of his people are crestfallen, and have their heads hung down, he does not demonstrate any serious leadership, nor show the path and the hope for a better tomorrow.

Even if Surya Sen in real life was quiet, some dramatic liberties could have been taken here, by AG, and brought out the character to be a little more aggressive than what he has done here, with Abhishek.

In fact, to put it simply, and to compare, Hrithik had acted better with his face and head, in Guzaarish, than what Abhishek has done with his entire body, in this film!!

At this point, just to compare KHJJS with a classic from the same genre, in a way. Lets consider 1942, A Love Story. That was also set in the background of the Indian freedom struggle, but based in north India. The difference there was the fictional aspect, which allowed Vidhu Chopra to play around. To introduce the romance, the brilliant songs and music from R D Burman! And the great visuals of the hills. And most importantly, being fiction, it could again show a win, even if a limited type, against the British! Which liberty, a true story like KHJJS did not have.

With all that, for the lover of Indian history, for one to appreciate what our forefathers did and how they fought for us to get our independence, and for a generally decent film made by Ashutosh Gowariker, I would still recommend seeing it once!

The film has provoked my thoughts around freedom fighters in general, and I may share those in a separate post.

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Comments
  1. […] of history films like Khelein Hum Jee Jaan Sey provoke thoughts beyond the film […]

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