Jannat (2008): In Search for Heaven...

Saw Jannat (Heaven) recently, starring Emraan Hashmi, Sonal Chauhan, Javed Sheikh, and others. Produced by Mukesh Bhatt and with music by Pritam Chakrobarty. If you've seen any of Hashmi's works, you know why some of them can be worth watching. The label he's earned through these last three years is that he ignores the value in versatility (there are several bigger stars who proudly carry that label). While that is true, what must be acknowledged is that he's gotten better at his area of focus, which is what makes Jannat work quite well.

At its core, the film is a love story and about how greed for wealth and power can drag one into the mire. It is also about the struggle one addicted to greed is faced with in sustaining any significant positive relationships. There's betrayal and compromise in loyalty of a different kind. And it's all packaged within the context of betting and match-fixing in cricket. This means that I shall have to do well to take off my cricket fan hat while writing this, which should not be that difficult, because the film would certainly be just as effective if it were based around any other sport (well, not quite, but you get the point). Read on.

1. Arjun Dixit (Emraan Hashmi) was, by every definition, a gambler. He went from luckless card game player to lucky sports better, his inspiration to acquire wealth being the lovely Zoya (Sonal Chauhan)...

...and more dangerously, an unrelenting lust for more...money and power.

2. As a bookie well-respected for his foresight and ability to convince cricketers to deliver outcomes suited to his liking, he was well-liked in his circles. A flyover sighting along the stretch of roadway most frequently mentioned on this blog (that would be the Queen's Necklace in Bombay), a reference to the Hollywood flick Sixth Sense, and a welcome reference to Aati Kya Khandaala from Ghulam (1998) later...

...we were taken to Cape Town in South Africa, where Javed Sheikh, a big bad don named Abu Ibrahim (no offense to anyone named Abu or Ibrahim), employed Arjun, who had two distinct paths to choose from: one with high-risk (involving a possible loss of the love of his life Zoya) and high-reward (money, tons of it), the other with stability and love, but one without the glitz and glamor of 'jannat' on earth. Which path would he choose? And would he risk all along the way?

3. One of the biggest strengths of Jannat was the clever dialogue. Given the characters, the lines were well written and well delivered. A couple that stood out given their purpose:

a. Main raaste badalta nahin hoon, raaste banaata hoon.
I do not change courses, but chart new ones.

b. Jab ghareebi darwaaze se aati hai tab pyaar khidki se baahar jaati hai.
When poverty enters through the doorway, love exits through the window.

4. The music fit in very well. Zara Sa by K. K. was fantastic and used well. I've enjoyed listening to it for a while now, and would rate it among the five best love songs of the year. Surprisingly, the song I liked most (as picturized in the film) was Jannat Jehaan by Rupam Islam, which was extremely well written with simple lyrics, and brilliantly integrated. Sample this: Laalach badi khoobsurat balaa hai ('Greed is a beautiful calamity'...yeah right).

5. Hashmi was very well cast, and successful in executing the role while staying within the script. Really liked how he was able to reflect Arjun's struggles in his quest for loyalty in love and his inability to rid himself of greed, which took over at critical junctures and led to the climax. The switching between personae was very convincing! Newcomer Sonal Chauhan as Zoya -- beautifully delicate but fiercely resolute -- was very effective, and the chemistry she shared with Hashmi was noteworthy. Javed Sheikh was excellent, Sameer Kochar as an A. C. P. decent. There was even a small but crucial role played by Vipin Sharma, who played Ishaan's father in Taare Zameen Par (2007).

6. Allusions to cricket were, for the most part, accurate. Nicknames for players used were well done, and the technical portions of the sport (although I would have liked more of them) were well-researched too. Two of the darkest chapters in the history of South Asian cricket, both of which marked the World Cup in 2007, were incorporated into the plot. One even drove the climax.

The one glaring flaw was this: the India-Pakistan game from (the group stages of) the World Cup of 2003, appeared *before* the India-England game from (the final of) the Natwest Series of 2002! Did they really expect to get past fans of the game? Luckily for them and for us, the sequence was hardly consequential in the context of the film.

The first 30 minutes were quite ordinary, mostly for the slow pace. Once the plot developed, pace was not at all an issue, especially given the elements including some excellent cinematography. I think there's more than enough in Jannat to warrant a viewing. I enjoyed it, and thought it was very well made and well-conceived. I know this isn't the popular stance to take, because the self-proclaimed 'true' Bollywood junkies seem to love to hate Hashmi, but it's only fair to give credit where credit is due, and the dude has earned it.

At its peak, Jannat is a reminder of how things can go horribly wrong when one loses control of desire. At the very least, it's a thrilling love story that provides entertainment centered around some witty dialogue. In either case, it succeeds in engaging viewers. If you have yet to see a film starring Hashmi, this is a very good one to start with! If you have seen and even liked one film starring him, this is mandatory viewing. There's a valid reason it is his biggest box-office success to date.

Movie rating: 3.75/5 (Very good!)

My classification:
R (for plot, dialogue)

Music rating: 3.25/5 (Much better after the movie!)

Official website (and picture source): jannat.visheshfilms.com
Please beware of the Wikipedia entry for the film, for it gives away the end.


Nicki said...

Emraan is surely underrated. Jannat, I didn't like too much the first time. But it's my fault since I had too much expectations for it. I usually don't do that either. I wrote Jannat here

theBollywoodFan said...

Hi Nicki: Emraan is right up there with the other actors of his generation. He's had some good works, and I think he's gotten very good at what he's good at.

Interesting take you have on Jannat and your expectations. Did you think any of it had to do with the cricket angle? I can see how this could mean more to fans of the sport, although the target audience was so generic, it never felt they were targeting fans of the game alone.


Shreya said...

I loved this movie! Absolutely fantastic! And I loved Emraan's role in it; he did an amazing job! And also, Sonal Chauhan did a great job being a newcomer!

theBollywoodFan said...

Hi Shreya: It is a very good movie, and I do believe it is Emraan's best performance to date. Hardly news for those who've seen his earlier movies, but I'm glad he finally got a box office hit to his credit! Thank you for stopping by!

Anonymous said...

Adab Nawab! I'm hearing so much about this film lately! Glad to see your post on it. I have this movie coming to me from the library soon. First, last week at work, a new coworker of mine casually mentions that her sister was traveling in India and by fluke played an extra in a Bollywood film, which I figured out was Jannat! Her sister was a gori in a bar scene that involved a fight, so I even wonder if it's her in that screen cap you've posted! Such a small world! Then a friend who traveled to Japan the other day told me he elected to watch Jannat over Taare Zameen Par during the flight. Then I see your post on the movie. I've seen lots of Bhatt's movies and since Emraan is used a lot in them, seen him too. He plays a good psycho. I really look forward to seeing this, if only to try and find my co-worker's sister. She was only paid about $12 for the day and had to pay for her ride from the set. She posted about it in a travel blog, but I don't have the link now, but will get it. I'll get a first hand review of this experience soon and do a post on it.

All the best!

theBollywoodFan said...

Adab Sita-ji: Since you've seen a good number of Emraan Hashmi films, I'd love to know what you think of this. Thanks for sharing the info involving your coworker's sister. The screencap might just be it! Quite an adventure, although you'd think they'd do much better at hospitality :(

Jannat is rather good, and it would make for a fun in-flight film, but I hope your friend eventually did see Taare Zameen Par (I'm sure you've told him it's in a league of its own, na?!) :o)

I'll look forward to your post on the film and the actor's experience!