The making of Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron – Must Buy! Mast Read!

Posted: December 27, 2010 by moifightclub in bollywood, books, cinema, reviews, Special
Tags: , , , ,

When i pinged Kartik Krishnan on GTalk yesterday, he told me has busy reading a new book. Film book ? Yeah. As always, i asked him if he could write a (recco) post and as always, he replied with a hmmmmm, which is a difficult expression to decipher. What to write about a book where every page is delicious ? Now that’s a genuine excuse, and difficult argument to win. So he wrote something and typed some excerpts from the book. Knowing him so well, I should have guessed it ( Click here to read Kundan Shah on Renu Saluja. And click here for  Guru Dutt on Classics and Cash) Typing out excerpts from a book may sound simple but is really a painstaking job. And is also a service for less privileged human beings who don’t have access to the book but are e-connected. And now his side of the story and more..

He asked me to ‘review’ this book written by Jai Arjun Singh (a superb writer-blogger who should write as frequently about cinema as literature – cos when he does – he nails it)

“Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro – Seriously Funny since 1983 – By Jai Arjun Singh” – click here to buy it

Now how does one try an encapsulate more than 250 pages devoted to the making of one of the oft quoted cult classic films of our times, in about 500 words ? How much trivia do we JBDY Bhakts know already, that we need a book to tell us ? What good could it possible tell which would be new ?

Turns out – Lots !!! My knowledge of the film is a measly 1% of what is there in the book. And I claimed to be one of the biggest JBDY bhakts among my circles-have even met Kundan Shah and tried to squeeze out maximum information out of him on the film. Clearly I’m wrong 😛

Trivias, Background history of the players, the director, writer, actors, scripting, NFDC, pre production, fights, troubles, ultra low budget shooting, post production, release & reviews, the legacy – it has it all – all summed up in an unputdownable read.

And when you read such a revelation – how do you write a post on it ?

May be stop endlessly raving about it and simply give some snippets of the book. May be hope that seduced by the ‘trailer’ of the book, people will go and buy it. Because at 188 bucks (film books normally cost Rs 500,800,1500 or more) this book is a steal. Highly Recommended. Cash on delivered to you doorstep in 3 days! Flipkart rocks!

So instead of a recco post, am transcribing quarter of a chapter here & there, hoping that this will contribute to the sales of the book. I hope I’m not offending the author of the book or the director.

Over to the book’s Intro –

The Artist as a Store Attendant (talks about the initial days of Kundan Shah- the humor streaks – the beginning transcribed below)

“Take this hypothetical situation”, Kundan Shah tells me at our first meeting in his Bandra office. “You want to write a book about this film I made years ago. So you call repeatedly and ask me to meet you and I keep putting you off, and you are getting fed up but you aren’t in any position to say anything. You’re the underdog in our relationship.”

“Then, finally, I do call you over at a very inconvenient time, say 10.30 at night. You travel a great distance to get here, but then find that I’m busy-I have people over. I brush you off with the words :”Hey listen, can you come later?”. It’s an inconsequential matter for me – your book isn’t going to make my 25 year old film more popular than it already is- but for you, it’s as if the world has come crashing down.”

“But you don’t want the people sitting around to see that you’re hurt. So you put on a brave face, turn the whole thing into a joke. “Okay, sir,” you say with your dead pan expression, “should I go back and come again at one am?” So now your humiliation has been transferred into another medium -sarcasm, whatever. And it’s for me to respond because, suddenly, I’ve become the butt of the joke”

Comedy and cruelty often go hand in hand, stresses the man who wrote and directed a very funny film that ends with its two most likeable characters heading for the hangman’s noose. “When a person slips and falls, he might -speaking realistically – have broken his hip, or worse, but people laugh. You create humour out of something painful.”

The Corpse, The Chess Game And The Flush Handle

Given how popular the ‘laash’ sequences would become, it’s a pity that the crew never got around to shooting some of the zanier scenes with the dead body, especially after the inebriated Ahuja takes it home with him. The scenes at the guesthouse were to include one where Ahuja – eager to entertain this strangely shy mehmaan who doesn’t say a word-initiates a game of chess with the body.Naturally, the drunkard ends up losing to the dead man. (Ingmar Bergman’s The Seventh Seal had established a precedent for Death winning cinematic chess games, though it is unlikely that Kundan and Ranjit Kapoor had this in mind when they wrote the scene).

Ranjit also fondly remembers a sight gag that begins with Ahuja encouraging the corpse to have some whiskey. When the drink inevitably spills on the floor, the builder slurs, “Arre yaar, tu yahaan susu kar raha hai? (‘You’re peeing on the floor?’), but regains his courteousness and, in the tradition of the good Indian host, carries his guest to the bathroom. There he puts the deceased commissioner’s hands through the flush chain, comes back to his room and falls asleep. The next day, when Vinod and Sudhir are looking for the body in the guesthouse, they are alerted by the osund of the flush: the body has been upright in the bathroom all night, the weight of its arm pulling down the flush handle every time the tank fills. Rinse and repeat, so to speak.

The climactic chase offered endless possibilities for droll use of the laash, one of them being a planned scene where Vinod and Sudhir disguise it as a beggar asking for alms. In a fine touch, Tarneja, Ahuja and the other crooks – who have built a career by cheating people out of crores of rupees – interrupt the chase to conscientiously put money in the ‘beggar’s’ bowl. But pehraps the funniest laash moment that didn’t make it to the final cut was a scene where the partners hide the body in a doctor’s clinic. The physician, described in the script as ‘a Jiri Menzel type’ (a reference to the Czech director of such movies as Closely Watched Trains), gives the body a complete check-up (temperature, blood pressure, pulse etc) and then proclaims, in the self assured, avuncular manner of the typical Hindi-film doctor : “Ghabraane ki koi baat nahin hai. Do din mein theek ho jaoge” (“Nothing to worry about. You’ll be fine in two days”)

Naseeruddin Shah Ko Gussa Kyun Aata Hai ? The Mirror Crack’d

But the next scene with which Naseer had problems might have worked better if he had been allowed to have his way. This is a sequence that ranks among the films weakest, most awkward moments – the faux mushy exchange between Vinod and Shobha as they stand in front of the mirror and she plays victim (‘Main ek akaylee abhla aurat hoon …’) to mine his romantic-hero feelings and manipulate him into helping her.

Actually the scene begins with Vinod trying to cosy up to Shobha, who swiftly makes it clear that theirs is a ‘professional sambandh’, that of ‘maalik aur naukar’ (hence the famous shot of Shobha placing her foot under Vinod’s chin). But then, realising how important these photographers are to her grand design, she changes tack. Some of the dialogue that follows – “Mere sapnon ka sathi, main bhi bhookhi hoon…pyaar ki” and “Suno mere dil ki dhadkan” – plays like a parody of mainstream melodrama.

When Kundan wrote the scene, his idea was that it would be a game of charades between Shobha and Vinod. Obviously, Shobha is the devious one, but Vinod isn’t entirely innocent either: he wants the fun of being seduced by this attractive woman but at the same time he vaguely senses that this might be a trap and he doesn’t know how far he can trust her. The scene was to be driven by this conflict. In fact, it was the thought of this scene which had inspired Kundan to cast Bhakti Barve – when he saw her on stage in Hands Up!, he realized that she was an actress who could handle the required nuance.

However when it came to shooting, Naseer said he wanted to play the scene seriously – Vinod would take everything Shobha said at face value and fall hook, line and sinker for her trap. A major arguement followed.

Naseer: There has to be a serious moment between these two!

Kundan: I agree. But this isn’t it! The serious moment can come afterwards, once she has backstabbed them.

Naseer: Let’s put it to a vote. The whole unit can decide whether I should play this scene straight or crooked.

So everyone voted and it turned out that almost everyone was on Naseer’s side.

Kundan: This is ridiculous. So what if everyone agrees with you. I’m the bloody writer of this thing and I’m also the director – I’m using my power to overrule the vote.

Naseer: Fine, then I won’t have dinner!

Okay, it probably didn’t happen exactly that way, but the upshot is that things were threatening to fall apart. As it is, this was never going to be an easy or straightforward take. When you are shooting a scene where two actors face a mirror together and the viewer sees only their reflections, the camera set-up is complicated. The actors have to look at predetermined spots rather than at each other, which can make performing the scene somewhat tricky since they can’t directly respond to each others facial expressions. A lot of preparation is required, and it is probably a good idea if the overall mood on the sets is congenial.

Eventually, Naseer agreed to play the scene the director’s way – and even had his food – but the results of the disagreements are sadly visible in the film. The sequence begins very well – Bhakti is outstanding in the shot where she realizes that she has to put on an act for this lovelorn fool and slowly starts drawing the curtains – but it quickly deteriorates into something clunky and inconsistent. Temporarily deprived of his simplicity, Vinod has a sly, cocky look about him that goes against the character, and Naseer doesn’t look at all convinced about what he is doing. Watching the scene today, one cringes at the sight of one of India’s finest actors so obviously out of sorts.

But this is the only scene where the actor’s discomfiture shows: though his role in the film is relatively subdued compared to those of Ravi Baswani, Om Puri and Satish Shah. He has a gala time in scenes such as the one where he pretends to be an American reporter for DeMello’s benefit, and as the fake ‘Duryodhana’ in the Mahabharata scene. In some ways, his achievement is all the more notable because he wasn’t to the genre born, so to speak. Besides, his commitment to the movie never flagged. Crew members remember him as being constantly encouraging towards the younger members of the unit, and very keen not to be treated as a big-shot (which he was, in the context of non mainstream cinema). Anytime there was a problem with money – as there frequently was – he would tell Kundan: “Take this out of my salary”. His attitude was emblematic of the overall approach to the making of Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro: fume and curse about specific things going wrong, but then get over it and put in your best.

PS – This post is NOT sponsored by the author, the publishers of the book or by Flipkart. If you are good, we will shout out from roof top and let the world know.

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Also, click on the play button to check out an interview of Jai Arjun Singh…talking about the book…

Comments
  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by p1j and p1j. p1j said: RT : @nbkhoon – http://tinyurl.com/35mhkd7 review of #JaaneBhiDoYaaron making by @nagrathnam Flipkart, say thanks now! @flipkart […]

  2. Manu Warrier says:

    @Nagrathnam great effort..thanks for bringing the book to my notice..I’ll pick one up for sure.. I stay quiet close to RK studio…have heard much of the props used by Raj Kapoor are just rotting away thanks to termites…always wonder why no Bollywood company is investing in film literature, print screenplays and have a museum…..it’s a another great way to preserve the memories behind great classics…and revenue generation is possibly…btw the ones out there are not the ones i am interested…we have ignored our history a lot..we’ll need a Madame tussad to open a branch here..to do something like that..till then we have to depend on books like this…@moifightlub…great post once again…keep the goodwork going…

  3. Fatema says:

    @Manu – if this were Fb I would’ve ‘liked’ your post. Totally agree with you.

  4. Fatema says:

    Heading to Flipkart. Good read, just that could’ve done with more excerpts! But thanks anyways!!! 🙂

  5. an absolutely fantastic book – as fantastic as the film itself. M reading it and will write the review on dearcinema.com soon

  6. Jabberwock says:

    Thanks again for this post, Kartik. And Utpal, glad you liked the book.

    Good read, just that could’ve done with more excerpts!

    Fatema: actually, Harper Collins might have a problem even with these excerpts – the publisher’s permission is required for excerpting more than 250 words, I think. But hopefully we’ll get away with this!

    Manu: forget the literature and the props – so many of the films are rotting away too! The negatives of many parallel-cinema classics made just 30 years ago (Bhavni Bhavai, Albert Pinto ko Gussa Kyon Aata Hai, many others) are in dire straits, with few or no initiatives being taken to preserve them. It’s a real pity.

    regards,
    Jai

  7. Fatema says:

    J – Oops! I re-track my statement then!!! Shall peep into the original then 🙂 Thanks for this one!

  8. jj says:

    Just saw JBDY again after reading the post. As amazing as it was 8yrs back, now that I understand dark humor and satire better. Buying this one for sure.

  9. miHir says:

    Wonderful book. Very engaging and full of ‘exclusive’ facts about the film. And I liked the ‘Introduction’ a lot. the ‘personal’ touch you gave to it in your writing, made it a spacial read for me.

    I have a question for Jai – do you (or the publisher) have plans to come up with a translation in Hindi in near future?

    Because if that is possible, please consider it like my personal humble request.

  10. Divyesh says:

    I’m lovin it…Thank you moifightclub, thank you kartik, thank you flipkart, and thank you Jabberwock…:)….without you the book wouldn’t have happened….(i’ll add a thank you to Kundan Shah and the team too, but then that kinda kills the point, innit? ),… picked it up yesterday…Unputdownable is the word!

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