‘Every film ever made is a shadow of the film it could have been – the film that you had set out to make’ says Kundan Shah. So what did he set out to make?
In the age of 140-character conversations, where, communication increases exponentially while ‘attention-span’ decreases as steadily, it is perhaps essential to breathe an air of lightness into academic writing. Sitting comfortably on that verge of academic, entertaining and nostalgic is Jai Arjun Singh’s Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro, one of the three monographs in the HarperCollins Film Series.
Traversing the making of Hindi Cinema’s arguably most definitive and loved comedy Kundan Shah’s Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro, the book takes us through talking gorillas, preserving dead rats, disco killer, defying logic and getting away it! In its own words, the book is the story of how the film came to be despite incredible odds – and what it might have been. As much a story of the maker as the make, the book gives a close (and very subtly inspiring) account of Shah’s journey as a filmmaker – his cinematic and literary influences, days at FTII, the struggle and odd jobs; thus giving the reader a probable ambience that led to a thought like ‘Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro' ('friends, let's just let this be').
Predictably archiving the scratch to screen journey of this cult classic, Singh succeeds in taking the book well beyond being a mere documentation through his effervescent writing and understated humour. Almost every chapter has a very anecdotal start and ends with lingering curiosity; interspersed are ‘what-could-have-been’ situations and anecdotes that add to make it an intriguing narrative – academic writing as refreshing as good fiction!
When we talk about Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro, it is hard to miss the character called city of Bombay (no not Mumbai), where the madness unfolds. It would have been interesting if the author had delved more into the role the city plays in this madcap tale and juxtapose it with the possibility of having the story set in Delhi. Would the context of National Capital make the underlying social comment more pointed? Would it have been a darker comedy? Kundan’s choice of city remains vaguely explained. Similarly, NFDC, the producer is not an often-heard voice in the book. Jai Arjun Singh briefly probes into the shortcomings of the film and even into Kundan Shah’s later career, but remains cautious and refrains from touching any extremes.
Through the conversations between Shah and Singh, as they discuss latter’s cinematic influences, and the examples of comedy in cinema that Singh articulates and analyses, the book also becomes a valuable piece on comedy in Hindi Cinema. He aptly raises the question that why has no one in Hindi Cinema made another film like this. The wave of comedy cinema that should have started, never took off.
Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro – Seriously Funny since 1983, is almost the stuff the movie itself is made of. Won’t be surprised if the anecdotes become as much of an in-joke as the dialogues are.