Almost duty-bound, I went yesterday to see OK Jaanu – which brings up the versions I’ve seen of the movie up to three. Did I like it quite that much? I suppose I did, to be so curious about how they had treated the Hindi remake.
It was not surprising but still disappointing to me when OK Jaanu didn’t ‘take’ in the Hindi market. It is, after all, only the thousandth time that something good, even special, from the South has been difficult to translate into Hindi.
What was the problem with this film? It is easy to blame the lead pair, Aditya Roy Kapur and Shraddha Kapoor. And a bit unfair. They were just in a project that was being repotted without due process.
I found Tara ‘off’ in Jaanu – she didn’t ring true... this is not how Tara Agnihotri from Kanpur would behave... what was cute in Tamil was bizarre and tangential in Hindi. Perhaps it's because Mani Ratnam is so steeped in the Tamil way, and his own stamp is so distinct but not so easily conveyed outside the culture.
Baradwaj Rangan makes an incisive point here on why Hindi remakes of Mani Ratnam’s films don’t work. He says, “There is an air of alienation when a Tamilian moves to a “north Indian” city – when Mouna Raagam’s Divya moves to Delhi, when Nayakan’s Velu flees to Mumbai, or even when Guru’s protagonist moves to Mumbai... He’s an outsider. And this outsider-ness – this non-Bombay-ness – adds a layer of subtext to the drama.”
He is so right. That is why it didn’t seem at all odd that Nitya Menen’s Tara would wave to a strange young man she didn’t know and laboriously signal him her phone number - he was a friend of a friend, and he was Tamilian from back home, here in Big Bombay, trying to make his way through just like she was. She knew his sort and in the comfort of that knowledge, he was familiar. But why would Tara from Kanpur?
Shraddha Kapoor is just too much of a “nice girl” to play the quirky character right. Miscast, perhaps. I thought Roy Kapur was better, but not quite anything approaching Dulquer Salman. Dulquer and the incandescent Nitya Menen pitched their characters perfectly: layers of irreverent flippancy over throbbing intensity.
In rewriting and re-imagining the film, Shaad Ali hasn’t gone even half as far as he should have. He should have rewritten so many aspects – the first meeting, the second meeting... Adi’s missing two days... and unforgivably the Hindi version deletes two crucial scenes that brought the story to an emotional boil.
Naseeruddin Shah, however, plays his part far more warmly than Prakash Raj did and Leela Samson was even better this time round. And I loved Chal na kuch karte hain.