Movie Review: Jhoom Barabar Jhoom - Guilty Pleasure?

June 17, 2007
Aditya Pant

There was a time, not very long back, when screen lovers in mainstream Hindi films would suddenly find themselves amid the verdant Swiss valleys and Alpine surroundings, singing the mandatory love ballad. As time progressed the locations became more global - Australia, New Zealand, Canada, et al. What did not change was the fact that our protagonists, though quintessential desis, would fantasize about singing and dancing in distant foreign locales. A dream, after all, reflects one's aspiration, not reality. You dream of something that is...well, distant.

Now, have you ever thought about where NRIs would dream of singing their love ballad? Well, India of course. They would dream of traveling on Indian Railways, meeting at the Old Delhi Railway station, navigating their way through the busy by lanes on Chandni Chowk on cycle rickshaws, wandering up and down the steps of an exotic step-well somewhere in Rajasthan, and of course serenading at the Taj. In other words - all that India stands for in the eyes of a foreigner: exotica.

The lovebirds in Shaad Ali's Jhoom Barabar Jhoom do precisely that. Doesn't matter if one of them is not really an Indian, and perhaps Lahore would be a better choice for her as a 'dream destination'.

Jhoom Barabar Jhoom has many such moments, which fall well within the conventions of Hindi films, but have a delightfully 'different' treatment. First and foremost - the melodrama is completely gotten rid of, save for some brief moments towards the climax. Secondly, the film has virtually no plot, which is very true of most mainstream Hindi films. But unlike other films, Shaad Ali seems to know this very well and Jhoom Barabar Jhoom doesn't pretend to be anything else.

This plotless, have-fun-while-it-lasts flick actually elevates thematic vacuousness to the level of a virtue. It is the non-existent storyline and an absence of 'dramatic conflict' that makes Jhoom Barabar Jhoom such fun to watch. What a sharp contrast from Ta Ra Rum Pum , the last film from the same Production House that tried so hard to be 'meaningful' but ended up getting nowhere.

The entire first half of the film is about two strangers meeting at London's Waterloo railway station and narrating the stories of their respective love lives to kill time. The stories they narrate are bizarre and outrageous, but presented in a delightfully different manner. OK, not so different but not commonplace either.

The narration of these stories has the same chutzpah and tongue-in-cheek quality that Sai Paranjpe presented so hilariously in Chashme Baddoor. Remember the scenes in Chashme Baddoor where Ravi Baswani and Rakesh Bedi try to cover up their failure in wooing Deepti Naval and take inspiration from the Hindi films they have seen to spin interesting yarns about their escapades?

Jhoom Barabar Jhoom pays homage to a number of Hindi films (many of them classics). So when the lovers are at the Taj, Jo Waada Kiya from Taj Mahal plays in the background. A prostitute named Laila gets her introduction with the Laila song from Qurbani. Ye Dosti accentuates the scene where Abhishek and Bobby are riding on a scooter with a sidecar, just like the way their fathers did in Sholay. A bit corny, yes. But what the heck, it's meant to be fun.

The reason I liked Jhoom Barabar Jhoom was that it never takes itself too seriously. The humour, though corny at times, comes across quite effortlessly. Just try to think about the lines you might have used to inject humour in your regular conversations with friends. At that moment it would have seemed very funny, but take it to a different setting and it would appear completely inane. That's a quality the team of Jhoom Barabar Jhoom - the writers, director, actors - manages to infuse in the film quite successfully.

My true LOL moment in the film was when Piyush Mishra is quite annoyed having to wait for his kababs to be served and shouts "...kya bakra kaatne gaya hai?" and the shop owner shouts at his cook using the exact same words. I realize that this doesn't sound funny when I write it down, but in the film this scene had me in splits.

Jhoom Barabar Jhoom relies a lot on Shankar Ehsaan Loy's high-octane music and brilliant choreography by Vaibhavi Merchant to get its unique fun feel. The conceptualization of the Kiss of Love is imaginative and very Broadway-ish. Gulzar's rustic lyrics add to the charm of the song and dance routines, though at times you wonder if the characters in the film would have in their vocabulary the words he gives them to mouth. But the die-hard Gulzar fan like me would not complain, because his distinctive touch stays intact in his songs, not to mention his fascination for the moon and the new imagery he associates with the moon and moonlight. A few examples:

- आजा चाँदनी कूटेँगे आसमान को लूटेँगे, चल धुआँ उड़ा के झूम
- यहीं कहीं शब काटेंगे, चिलम चटाई बाँटेंगे, चल धुआँ उड़ा के झूम
- मक्की की रोटी गुड़ रख के, मिसरी से मीठे लब चख के, तन्दूर जला के झूम
- खीसे खुलने लगे हैं, हीरे तुलने लगे हैं...
- चाँद की उतार ली हैं दोनों बालियाँ...
- ये चाँद का चिकना साबुन कुछ देर में घुल जायेगा...
- धागे तोड़ लाओ चाँदनी से नूर के...

I know that I belong to the rare breed of people who actually enjoyed Jhoom Barabar Jhoom. It's been panned universally by critics and I'm yet to hear a positive comment from anyone who has seen the film. I don't understand why, but there have been many times when my views have not matched with others.

For one, I saw many good points even in the now forgotten Umrao Jaan when others found none. At first I used to be very defensive about my views, but not anymore. Jhoom Barabar Jhoom is my guilty pleasure. Actually not - I don't feel embarrassed to admit that I loved it. If others didn't it's not my problem!

Aditya Pant is an avid movie buff who loves to write about films. Urdu Poetry is his other passion. Recently bitten by the blogging bug, Aditya regularly writes on his blog - Khwahish-e-Parwaaz
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June 17, 2007
12:40 AM

Thanks for this review Aditya! I won't get to see this until Monday but what's been bugging me is that all the reviewers seem to have thought that they were in for some great art cinema and anybody who's heard what I like to call the boutique-jhakaas music could have figured out that that's not what they were in for. So this makes me very happy. :)

Of course, if I dont like it I'll come back and fight with you about it, lolz!! j/k :)

June 17, 2007
12:59 AM

You've got company: The New York Times

June 17, 2007
03:38 AM

Just back from watching this moview here in California. Before going I had read the reviews and was prepared for the worst. I laughed through out the movie and kept wondering as to what people disliked about this wonderful piece of Bollywood.

June 18, 2007
06:27 AM

One thing I didn't like, Abhishek's name coming in the credits before Bobby's name.
That should not have been the case.

Shaan Khan
June 18, 2007
10:44 AM

Rahim Chacha is an old family help. He came over to the USA with my siblings and me. Today he visits my siblings, but thinks of my home as his home. As old as he is, he still insist on doing everything. He cooks & cleans, drives me around, he is the butler as well as the gardener. He is truly family to my siblings and me, and like true family members we subject him to a lot of pranks. We have convinced him that his eye sights are getting weaker. Every time a new Lil C movie comes to town, we take him to see the movie. On seeing Lil C, he always says, "When I see Fardeen Khan, I can see that he is Feroz Khan's son. When I see Bobby Deol, I can see that he is Dharmendra's son. When I see Nawab Saif Ali Khan Patuadi, I can see that he is Sharmila's son, but when I see Lil C, it appears that I am seeing Gulshan Groover's son". Ofcurse all he has to do is say that and we pound him till he is convinced that his eyes are getting weaker.

Thanks to Rahim Chacha, I saw "Jhoom Barabar Jhoom" yesterday. Rahim Chacha's reaction was, "Kaisi Chali Hai Abh Ki Hawa Tere Shaher Mein, Bunday Bhi Ho Gayein Hai Khudah Tere Shaher Mein". In the old days of Rahim Chacha there used to be Dilip Kumar, Raj Kapoor and Dev Aanad. He also saw the likes of Shammi Kappor, Sunil Dutt, Dharmendra. Unfortunately for him (as he puts it) he has lived to see Lil C, a ugly third class actor with no charisma being shoved down our throats by the media.

As opposed to many, I liked JBJ's story. I can see why Adi invested in this venture. Nonetheless, the screenplay let the movie down and the dull direction just killed it. If you ask me who screwed up JBJ, I would say it is a toss up between lack luster direction of Shaad Ali and the poor acting of Lil C.

All Lil C had to do was be slightly better than Akshay Kumar (in Namaste London). Now how difficult can that be? But leave it up to Ash's husband to screw up even a simple job. Instead of a Panju from Batinda, we see a Doodhwalla Bhaiya from Allahbad making all kind of faces. What was Lil C thinking ? Does he not know the difference between Punjab and UP ? He acts in JBJ as if this was some street "Nautanki". Needless to say Lil C is so lacking in the charisma department that even Huffy Bhai scores over him. As usual, Lil C is very under whelming.

Preity Woman must be furious that after "Salaam Namaste", she got demoted to a Lil C movie while Adi's pet Rani, after Bunty & Bubly, got promoted to a Nawan Saif Ali Khan Patuadi movie. Thanks to Saif, Rani has a hit and thanks to Lil C, Preity has a flop.

Bobby Deol was the star in JBJ. He looked great and acted even better. Do not trust any review which claims that Lil C was better. Bobby did to Lil C in JBJ what HR did to him in Dhoom II. In the first half Bobby plays a rich suave guy and in the second half a nervous nelly. He does both of them so well that I would love to see him more often in comic roles. Along with Preity Woman, and Huffy Bhai he is the life of the movie.

Lara Dutt seriously needs to lose some weight and the less said about Big B the better. No wonder Big B is fast becoming very irrelevant. That Big B laughter close to the wee end of the movie was so fake and it puts into play the question, "Is Bachchalan Burnt Toast?"

At the end of the movie, I teasingly asked Rahim Chacha if he liked the kiss (Lil C kisses Preity Women in JBJ) ? To which Rahim Chacha replied, "You call that a kiss ? Kiss is what HR gave to Ash in Dhoom II". It is safe to say that we all agree with Rahim Chacha.

June 18, 2007
07:33 PM

I for one can't wait to see it! Aditya, Filmiholic gave it a cheerful review too:

Shaan Khan
June 18, 2007
10:35 PM

'Jhoom Barabar Jhoom' opens to disappointing reviews

By Raj Kumar Staff
Friday June 15, 2007

As Jhoom Barabar Jhoom has opened to disappointing reviews. The film is currently at a 46%, which is below average. With 13 critics reviews currently in for the film, only 3 have been positive, 2 have been average and the remaining 8 have been negative.

The general consensus for the film is that while it's technically impressive and features great music, the story and screenplay falter.

Keep checking this space over the next several days as more reviews for the film come in. Currently with a 46% rating, the film is the worst rated Yash Raj films release since Neal 'N Nikki (35%), which released in 2005. Shaad Ali's (director of Jhoom Barabar Jhoom) last film, Bunty Aur Babli, scored a 59%.

June 28, 2007
02:54 PM

Nice review. Esp as a lover of Urdu poetry, enjoyed ur reprinting of lyrics. Despite his sometimes excessive and avoidable wordplay ( geela geela paaii in Satya), there's no questioning Gulzar's genius as a wordsmith.

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