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"JBJ is like a long stand-up joke" : Subhash K Jha

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By: Subhash K. Jha, IndiaFM
Monday, June 18, 2007
Hmmmmmm. Er...Ahem ahem. What to say, what to do about this thanda thanda to-do about nothing?

Everybody in Jhoom Barabar Jhoom including the director, is an impossible imposter. Abhishek Bachchan poses as a small-town guy in love with a ver-r-r-y poised and sexy Pakistani-French mademoiselle from Paris. Preity Zina poses as a modern-day Cinderella with a very posh British-Indian fiancÉe. Bobby Deol, a nerd-optician poses as a cyber-Superman.

Lara Dutta, God bless her luscious presence, is a tart masquerading as a prima donna. Director Shaad Ali poses as an auteur with the wickedly audacious sense of humour of a comic-book aficionado. While the audience, not to be left behind, is supposed to pretend that it finds the bizarre goings-on hilarious.

But sorry, no go. This is Bunty without the bubbly. The joke, if any, is on the creator of this musical travesty where the four main characters behave as though they are so impressed with themselves and their humorous circumstances, they would rather not have the audience along for the joyride, thank you.

Nasir Hussain-meets-Baz Luhrmann in Shaad Ali's weird-and-wacky fun-and-frolic homage to the spirit of backslapping bonhomie. As in Bunty Aur Babli (we won't count Saathiya as part of the Ali's oeuvre since it was more Mani Ratnam than Ali) Shaad shows a distinct affinity to old-fashioned masquerades... You know those potboilers from the 1960s where the hero pasted on a beard and pretended to be the heroine's professor?

This is Moulin Rouge with too little meat and too much rouge... The love-versus-flirtation masquerade gets lost in too much masti, masquerade and mascara, so that at the end of the chic charade you're left looking at a film that is epic in design (big extravagant song sequences) and cartoon-strip in characterization and content.

What was Shaad Ali thinking when he designed this celluloid confectionary? Did he want to show us how far he could go with his sense of the outlandish? The screenplay and dialogues (Habib Faizal) are terribly un-smart. Each character embraces cockiness like a 'laugh' boat in the simmering but shallow sea of silliness.

"If you don't come back I'll be screwed," says Lara in her funniest Pak-French accent. "I won't let anyone screw you." Retorts Abhishek. Er... screw-driver for the soul, anyone? No screw-vrew. But Abhishek gets to smooch both his heroines, one of them under the Eiffel Tower.

Sorry, the adolescent kiss under the Eiffel Tower in Mera Pehla Pehla Pyar last week seemed much more heartwarming.

JBJ is like a long stand-up joke that goes wronger and wronger as the narrative gets longer and longer. Shadows fall on the frisky flamboyance with ominous opulence. Not that there are no genuinely funny and bright moments. But they get drowned in self-congratulation.

Everyone is busy listening to his or her own words flow out in an incessant downpour of absurdity. The characters neither connect with one another or with the audience even when they talk or sing directly to us.

A large part of the overall design of this in-house joke is occupied with songs and dances. All four protagonists dance the dance of the dunce spiritedly. Bobby surprisingly steals the frames quite often specially in the 'Kiss of love' sequence. Here's one actor who is finally getting out of his lazy career.

Abhishek and Preity do Bunty Aur Babli 2, replete with a saat phere in front of the Taj Mahal. It was funny between Abhishek and Rani the first time. This time the whole post-interval chunk where Abhishek and Preity imagine themselves transposed from London to Agra -UP is clear evidence of the leisurely lather running out of froth.

The bubbly but brackish brew makes you froth at the mouth. Abhishek and Preity, though given the thankless task of making the lines appear funny when they are often not, lend an illusory energy and effervescence to the parodic proceedings.

But it's Bobby , with his twin-shaded stud-and-nerd look and Lara with her luscious tart-to-diva makeover who come as the surprise element. Really, what's keeping luscious Lara from superstardom? Maybe wrong choice of films? (Hint, hint!)

In the quest for the crest of comicality, Shaad Ali pays a homage to old film songs and films as disparate as Sholay and, ahem ahem, Bunty Aur Babli.

Lekin boss, kuch baat bani nahin. Maybe the self-consciously clever words got in the way? Or maybe Bhatinda air-cargoed to London is just not amusing.

Namaste London did it with far more grace and affection.

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