With a stellar cast and a gripping narrative, the director transforms his adaptation of Keigo Higashino’s novel into a cinematic experience

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Based on The Devotion of Suspect X, a best-selling novel by Keigo Higashino, Jaane Jaan is a delectable treat by Sujoy Ghosh. While Drishyam (2015) was the unofficial as well as a loose adaptation of this Japanese novel, Ghosh takes the more dignified route to make an official adaptation of the book, sticking to its premise for the most part.

Jaane Jaan unravels the life of Maya D’Souza (Kareena Kapoor), a single mother who, together with her daughter Tara D’Souza (Naisha Khanna), resides in the tranquil town of Kalimpong. Their neighbour, Naren (Jaideep Ahlawat), a brilliant mathematics teacher, routinely visits her cafe because he is not-so secretly in love with her. The mother-daughter’s peaceful existence shatters when Maya’s ex-husband, Ajit (Saurabh Sachdeva), returns, threatening to disrupt the new life she has painstakingly crafted to escape his shadowy past.

In a whirlwind of events, a murder transpires, setting the stage for the arrival of Karan Anand (Vijay Varma), an astute police officer, who is already in pursuit of Ajit. Faced with a dire predicament, Maya turns to Naren, known as “Teacher,” to navigate the treacherous waters of concealing the murder. The latter crafts an elaborate plan, using serpentine methods to protect Maya and Tara from the relentless pursuit of Anand.

One story, many adaptations

The Devotion Of Suspect X has sparked numerous adaptations worldwide, spanning various languages and cultures. This widespread fascination is unsurprising, given the novel’s unique take on the crime genre. Rather than the typical cat-and-mouse chase, it delves into the intellectual battle between the detective and the suspects, offering filmmakers a chance to redefine the genre and craft an engaging thriller.

Kareena Kapoor steals the show with her stardom amalgamating beautifully with the actor in her that we so badly need

Sujoy Ghosh, the director of Jaane Jaan, emerges as a filmmaker with a visceral approach, often transforming unconventional ideas into feature films. This creative journey can yield mixed results, but in the case of Jaane Jaan, it undeniably succeeds. Ghosh’s enigmatically eccentric sensibilities align perfectly with a script that serves as a rich reservoir of captivating plotlines.

Ghosh skillfully navigates this intriguing narrative landscape, breathing life into the story. His ability to harness the meaty plotlines and translate them onto the screen showcases his directorial prowess. This collaboration between an unconventional director and a compelling script results in a cinematic experience that promises to be engaging and thought-provoking.

Cast of characters

Much like the source material it’s based on, Jaane Jaan pivots around its characters that form the fulcrum of the film. The film’s greatest strength lies in its characters, and in this case, its actors as well. Regardless of the genius of Ghosh, a film like this can’t succeed without a magnificent cast to bring it to life.

Varma’s portrayal of Anand is compellingly brilliant, and the actor once again proves how he remains to be one of the finest and most watchable actors we have today. He captures Anand’s charismatically analytical demeanour perfectly. Jaideep Ahlawat, as the enigmatic mathematician Naren, delivers a standout performance. He conveys Naren’s quiet intensity and complex emotions in what can only be described as an out-and-out masterclass of acting, especially in silence. Hardly any other actor can use the lack of dialogues the way Ahlwat does, creating monologues out of glances, twitches, and shrugs.

Watching Varma and Ahlawat share screen space is any viewer’s dream. A different breed of actors, doing what they are best at in the framework of a director who has always been someone with an eye for detail — a useful skill when making a psychological crime thriller like this. Kareena Kapoor steals the show with her stardom amalgamating beautifully with the actor in her that we so badly need. She is luminous as Maya, standing her ground in front of two actors who could quite easily overshadow the brightest of stars when it comes to putting up a full display of one’s acting chops. Her chemistry with Varma is as intriguing as it is lascivious, perhaps the most dazzling on-screen connection she has had after Jab We Met (2007).

A better closure

The film successfully retains the essence of the novel, focusing on the layers of deception, motive, and the intricate web of human relationships, rather than merely uncovering the murderer. Ghosh maintains a laboriously even pace, but nevertheless uses a riveting approach to the story keeping the viewers hooked. Avik Mukhopadhyay’s cinematography only enhances the ambiguity that Ghosh chooses to adopt. Mukhopadhyay, who has done countless phenomenal films in Bengali and Hindi, like The Last Lear (2008), Raincoat (2004), Chokher Bali (2003) and Badla (2019), most recently did Sardar Udham (2021), showcases, once again, that a film is nothing without precise and inventive cinematography.

While Jaane Jaan is easy to devour, it does deviate from Higashino’s novel by reducing the complexity and changing the ending to perhaps provide a better closure, which is sometimes necessary given that adapting such a complex story into a film format inevitably requires condensation and simplification. To some, it may seem like a sacrifice of depth, but staying within the constraints of the genre, Jaane Jaan aims not to stimulate one’s intellect, but to provide the comfort of certain uncertainty that crime thrillers often dish out, and it does so with panache.

Jaane Jaan serves as a reminder of the exciting times that await us in the age of streaming where, if done right, audiences stand to witness stories and performances rising above stars and their stardom (reserving that for the cinema halls), positioning themselves for projects that shoulder on good writing, adept performances and skillful direction.

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