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Jaane Jaan movie review: Kareena Kapoor is both the strength and weakness of this film

The discovery of a horrifically mutilated body in Kalimpong sets into motion a psychological thriller. The identity of the murderer is not hidden in Sujoy Ghosh’s ‘Jaane Jaan’, based on Japanese author Keigo Higashino’s globally-popular novel ‘The Devotion Of Suspect X’. The high point of the book was the cat-and-mouse game between a detective and a prime suspect: you go into the movie, a near-faithful adaptation but with some twists, hoping for the same level of smart engagement.

The three chief characters the film revolves around are single mother Maya (Kareena Kapoor Khan) and her teenage daughter, her neighbour, the shy, retiring, brilliant maths reacher Naren (Jaideep Ahlawat), and the sharp-as-a-tack Mumbai detective Karan (Vijay Varma) who is working the case of the dead man. What led the victim to a seedy hotel in this hill town? What is his connection to Maya, who owns a modest cafe, and who doesn’t seem to have much of a life of her own? Will Karan ever get to the bottom of this mystery: the needle of suspicion points to Maya, but none of the evidence supports the case. Just what is going on?

Watch | The trailer of Jaane Jaan featuring Kareena Kapoor Khan, Vijay Varma and Jaideep Ahlawat

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The setting is effective, as is the first act, when we are introduced to these disparate characters. With her unmade-up, unvarnished face, Kareena reinforces our belief that there’s a great deal to her that we haven’t discovered yet. But her presence in the film works both as plus and minus: her being the clearly bigger star, in fact the only star, skews the dynamics of the tale. The plot privileges her, as does the camera, and it becomes a case of a dressed-down star showing off her acting cred. In Kareena’s case, there really was no need for this: we’ve already seen how she lifts films — think ‘Chameli’, ‘Talaash’ and ‘Angrezi Medium’, among others. Here, both Ahlawat and Varma, and their characters, are in service to her persona. And this weakens the film, making it drab; at just over two hours, you feel both the contrivances and the stretch.

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Higashino’s ‘Suspect X’ has already had a bunch of highly-successful Indian iterations in ‘Drishyam’ (Malayalam, Tamil, Hindi). What I was looking for in Ghosh’s ‘official’ adaptation was that feeling of tension that runs through texts that excavate human darkness: can anyone pick up a hard object and bash someone’s skull in? What does it take for an ordinary person to watch flesh burn?

There’s a scene in which Kareena Kapoor Khan shows just how a bona fide star can light up the screen, in which her Plain Jane character segues neatly into her glamorous Bollywood avatar. That glow, in that karaoke scene, when she croons the title song ‘aaa jaaane jaaan’, is blinding. But placing the spotlight on her (Khan in her first OTT movie!) makes the men dull. Both the spry Varma, who floats about trying to figure his next steps, and Ahlawat, who is absolutely terrific as a man who yearns for the unattainable, are equals when in the same frame; in the company of Kapoor Khan, they are left to adore.

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Jaane Jaan movie cast: Kareena Kapoor Khan, Jaideep Ahlawat, Vijay Varma, Saurabh SachdevaJaane Jaan movie director: Sujoy GhoshJaane Jaan movie rating: 2 stars

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