Cinema has a temputous relationship with the eye of the beholder. The eye has always been conservative, fickle, demanding- lazy and unwilling to broaden focus and the constant challange for cinema has been to cater to the eye while furthering the space between to pack in the vision artistic. Throughout the course of cinema there have been psycophants, anarchists, pseudo-anarchists and then that rare breed that embraces both the eye and the creative vision. And imagine my surprise when 'Jhoom Barabar Jhoom' which looks like any other Yashraj salespitch knocking on South Hall doors arrives to make itself comfortable in that rare breed that houses the likes of Waisa Bhi Hota Hai.
'Jhoom Barabar..' is a movie that runs its plot mechanics on nothing but perception. It's a tricky ploy which worked wonderfully for O. Henry in several of his short stories and the last example i remember would be Alfonso Cuaron's one take segement in Paris J'Taime. It's a ploy that required dexterity, lightness of touch and a sense of humor all of which Director Shaad Ali employs with relish and manages to carry off his latest offering with aplomb.
The Yashraj banner that swirls before the movie kicks off is the first of the movie's many illusions that Ali later deconstructs. The moment you see the banner after you've been through the trailers and the posters the perception one has of the movie is that of a Salaam Namaste breed with it's annoying expatriate mannerisms and shy, apologetic prodding of Bollywood stereotypes. The thought I had in my head the moment Abhishek Bachan turns up on the screen and says "Oh! Blimey!" in thick Punjabi accent, was 'finally, even Shaad Ali sold out to the overseas box-office' and i had to wait all the way to second half when in an extended but inspired song sequence in which he embraces the whole spectrum of Bollywood romance to put me to shame and later, elation.
The first half begins with awkwardness as Abhishek and Priety run into each other at a railway station each seemingly waiting for thier better halves to arrive on the train from Birmingham. Too pass the time, Abhishek begins to narrate his story of how he met the love of his life in Paris. The movie follows his quirky narration to France and Shaad Ali shows how to place a tribute without actually ripping off a scene. There's a refernce to Diana's demise, accordian music, slapstick and a boudoir glow to the scenes and if one is keen, all that is an allusion to 'Amelie', respectful, subtle and without intellectual thievery. Another notable scene is the exchange of words between Abhishek and Lara Dutta in the backdrop of the Eiffel tower. Abhishek jhooms across Lara speaks his lines and the then Lara jhooms across Abhishek to speak hers. There's more to 'Jhoom Barabar Jhoom' than a ctahcy phrase for a title and you begin to get a sense of things to come.
Next, Priety's narration skewers the Yashraj Banner and all it stands for, with it's Madame Tussade intro and kilometre long cars and mansions across acres. It moves like a Woody Allen film cutting across space and time with a lot of quirk before the train arrives and with it the interval.
The second half plods along in no particular direction at first but with a beautiful montage of Gurudwara domes peeping out over the roofs of Southhall, Shaad Ali grounds and gritties his film in contrast to the chiffon yashraj paradise. And after Bobby Deol's Jat-yamla-pagla-deewana entry, it finds its footing and then the movie begins to gain momentum and comic timing in full flow. To reveal how it all unfolds to the mad chemical flourescence frenzy of the finale would be to take away from the experience of watching it.
The Jhoom Barabar Jhoom finale is a Broadway Melody type dance video of its own and Shaad Ali doesn't shy away from the grotesque and the plain weird. Check out the Bordello queen straight out of B-graders and the whacked out Elvis impressario introducing the 'Jharoka' night competition. Even as the camera pans the shadows of the background dancers, you'll notice a lack of blondes and well toned bodies. It has the lunatic flavor of MTV and Channel V promos than that of a Bollywood musical number.
Another aspect of the film to cherish, is Ali's Bollywood homages- loving and eccentric. Catch Amitabh's high voltage Yaraana suit, old classics pouring out of phate-hue transistors at apt scenes and in something we have all been giving thought to and Bombay Times has been donating it's prized first page artists' digital impression to, ever since 'Refugee'was released- Bobby Deol and Abhishek Bachan in.... I won't spoil that for you.
As the performances, each one as whimsical as the other. Every actor seems in on Shaad Ali's joke and they play it in style with Piyush Mishra stealing every scene he is in right under the noses of the big four with deadpan no-nonsense delivery that harks of Vince Vaughan. And as for Amitabh Bachan, out of his millions of blink-and-miss appearences, this one is a standout. Each time his track plays on rotation the movie moves up another orbit and when that happens, it's a rush of blood.
The best part of 'Jhoom Barabar Jhoom' is its refusal to go elitist. It may handle Bollywood with post-modern tongs but there's love, romance, comedy, music and style. I'd recommend a minimum, nay bare minimum of two viewings and even a DVD in your collection. After Sathiya, Bunty and Bubli and Jhoom Barabar.. Shaad Ali's next is most eagerly awaited.