Subhash K. Jha on Jashnn

By Subhash K. Jha

Film: "Jashnn"; Cast: Adhyayan Suman, Shahana Goswami, Anjana Sukhani, Humayun Saeed; Director: Raksha Mistry and Hasnain S. Hyderbadwala; Rating: ***

Rejoice! The Bhatts are back with a film that rips a hole in the heart and lodges itself deep into your consciousness...for a bit at least.

It's hard to move away from the territory of trauma that Bhatt perennially creates for his characters. His protagonists suffer because they allow themselves the luxury of feeling and hurting in an utterly self-centred way.

In a marked departure from the sacrificial mother figures of our movies, the film's central character Nisha (played with gut-wrenching brutal honesty by Shahana Goswami) is shown to be a rich man's mistress not because of her kid brother but because, as she roars in one of the narrative's soul-piercing highest-pitched sequences, she has gotten so used to luxuries she can't stand in queue for buses any more.

"Jashnn", like Mahesh Bhatt's "Jannat" before it, wallows in the transparent hunger of today's lifestyle and how far individuals are ready to go in pursuit of the next thrill.

At its heart, "Jashnn" is a simple story about four troubled people tied together in a baffling labyrinth of complicated emotions.

As Adhyayan Suman, rising to the challenge of playing the author-backed role of Aakash -- 'didi's ladla' and destiny's unfavoured wannabe Michael Jackson -- says to his spunky girlfriend (a never-say-why girl who moves in with her guy in his garage music room): "Your brother was supporting my sister. Now you're supporting me. What a family we are!"

Bhatt's people are never afraid of facing the truth about themselves, no matter how ugly. And it can't get any uglier than the sequence where Akaash -- angry, embittered, cornered and moneyless -- steals from a woman's purse in a bar to pay for his drinks.

There is a redemptive counterpoint to this hideous moment of compromise. There always is. And when it comes in "Jashnn", you feel like applauding our young hero's proclivity to look life in all its garish shades straight in the eye.

In what could be considered the best re-launch since Mallika Sherawat in the Bhatts' "Murder", Adhyayan gets a role with a graph and grip that most newcomers fantasise about.

Adhyayan surrenders himself completely to the bum musician's inner world, emerging with emotions that lie buried too deep for tears, fears and jeers. He cries openly and feelingly for his lost and redeemed dignity, he makes love to his girlfriend with the same tender look in his eyes as when he cuts a cake with his sister. He grits his teeth when his sister is insulted for her parasitical life as a rich man's mistress. He rejoices when she is liberated. He's a Mahesh Bhatt hero.

Shahana, the truest new-millennium inheritor of Shabana Azmi's histrionic kingdom, goes through the role of squalid dependency and emotional liberation with a velocity of expressions that expand the screen space into a universe of articulated angst.

Of course, the dialogues help. Shahana's sequence where she tells a cheesy guy she wants to be something better than meat in the market is proof enough of her capabilities.

It's interesting to see Anjana Sukhani turn a routine role of the spoilt but eventually sobered-down heiress into an area of interesting possibilities. The girl is spirited and plays her part with a determined relish.

The film's other protagonist Humayun Saeed hams his way through most of the material. He isn't to be blamed all the time. Some of his sequences lack the insightful intensity of what the writers offer the other principal characters. And to see this villain weeping in repentance at the end kind of takes away from the sting and bite of the tangy dish on contemporary compulsions that the Bhatts have prepared for posterity.

Mention must be made of the actor who plays Aakash's best friend Sukesh. The boy gets the point.

It isn't as though "Jashnn" has something new to say. If you've been observing the cinema of Mahesh Bhatt you'd know they secrete dark recesses of resonant emotions serving more as mirrors for the mores of our times rather than just vehicles to get audiences into titillated submission.

The women in Mahesh Bhatt creations are extraordinarily striking creatures. And there are two such women in "Jashnn". One is a tortured mistress of the night. The other is a wealthy woman who lives with her struggling boyfriend and refuses to abort her illegitimate baby.

A scar is borne. The womb is a wonderfully warm place to tell screen stories about people who manoeuvre out of materialistic morass in redemptive rhythms.

Co-directors Raksha Mistry and Hasnain Hyderabadwala have here created a parable of pain written across the theme of a musician's journey from rejection to victory.

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