When I was driving back home after watching Jhoom Barabar Jhoom, I asked myself how I would describe the experience to my friends. My top three candidates were:
3. A lengthy rant involving the occasional throwing of cosmic questions into the void, such as "What were they smoking when they wrote this?" or "What moron heard this pitch and decided to put money into this?"
2. The horror, the horror... (Ideally in my best Marlon Brando voice, which unfortunately doesn't sound much like Brando.)
1. An expression of muted shock and misery, held for about 30 seconds.
If you're an avid moviegoer like I am, with tastes spanning multiple genres, languages and levels of absurdity, you tend to walk into a movie with appropriate expectations. Watching a Yash Raj film and complaining about the lack of realism is akin to watching a West End production of Hamlet and complaining about the lack of car chases.
So, when you walk into a theatre to watch a movie that involves Amitabh Bachchan dressed like a cross between Bappi Lahiri and Bjork, you prepare yourself for more such outlandish excursions. The extraordinary thing about JBJ is that it defies all expectations. Unfortunately not in a good way.
The plot involves two people waiting at a London railway station and falling into conversation. They both claim to be waiting for their respective lovers, and talk of how they fell in love. And somewhere along the way, they fall in love with each other. As it happens, there are no lovers in the background: they just made it up. So now they have to do all the crazy stuff people do in romantic comedies before they finally kiss. None of this is particularly novel, but if done well, it could've been a serviceable rom-com. Ah, well...
I guess what brings it down is, lemme see... the wafer-thin characterization, zero chemistry between the leads, a screenplay with no sense of flow, an average score and bad acting. Short list, don'tcha think? Priety Zinta and Bobby Deol lead the pack with truly atrocious performances. Lara Dutta can be forgiven for not being capable of anything better. To give her some credit, she doesn't do too badly in the second half. And Abhishek Bachchan... considering how many comedies he's been doing in recent times, it's amazing how little his comic timing has improved. The man is often half a second late in his dialogue delivery, which essentially means that half the comic potential of his lines are lost while he's getting there. I've already spoken of his facial hair in an earlier post, but I must admit that his look and mannerisms in this movie aren't half-bad. To do him justice, he delivers the occasional zinger quite well. However, these do little to salvage what is yet another bad performance in a movie chock-full of them. The only one who manages to come out relatively unscathed is Piyush Mishra, who plays Abhishek's friend Hanif.
And now for costume design and art direction. It's so atrocious, it deserves its own paragraph instead of being part of the laundry list above. It even deserves its own blog, but I don't think I have the energy for it. Suffice it to say that some of it makes Baz Luhrmann's work look like German expressionism in comparison. The rest of it is just plain bad.
The music has gotten much airtime in recent weeks, particularly the title number with Amitabh stepping out of a Salvador Dali painting to do a song-and-dance routine. Which is just as well, since the rest of the album is pure noise, while this one has the glimmer of a tune. However, it appears so often in the movie that it begins to get on one's nerves. The argument, I suppose, is that the music would grow on you. Well, so would fungus, except you don't let it.
Traditionally, reviews like this are supposed to end with some sort of savage punchline. But then I ask myself, why bother putting in more effort into the review than the makers put into the movie? Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn.
Ah, there you go.