Book Review: ‘Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro’

Kundan Shah’s ‘Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro’ forms a part of most vivid memories of Doordarshan era.

Aman Kanth

For anybody and everybody who is born in the 1980s, Kundan Shah’s ‘Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro’ (1983) forms a part of the most vivid memories of the Doordarshan era. It’s quite strange that Shah’s debut film, which was made on a shoestring budget with lesser known faces except for Naseerudin Shah and Om Puri, turned out to be a huge hit and still enjoys a phenomenal fan base.

‘Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro’ is the story of two naive photographers, Vinod (Nasseruddin Shah) and Sudhir (Ravi Baswani), who set up a studio for an honest living but are unwillingly drawn into a sticky situation involving corrupt builders – Tarneja (Pankaj Kapoor) and Ahuja (Om Puri), corrupt law enforcers – DeMello (Satish Shah) and Commissioner Srivastava (Deepak Qazir) a corrupt magazine publisher Shobha (Bhakti Bharve), eliciting madness and mirth based on brilliant one-liners (Thoda khao, thoda pheko) and the famous scenes - where a dead man skates and keeps changing his facial expressions and the great Mahabharata scene.

In Harper Collins’ book entitled ‘Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro’, Jai Arjun Singh tries to demystify all that went into the making of the film from “a quiet showing at Box Office to developing a reputation as India’s definitive black comedy”. In ‘Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro’, Singh documents the making of this cult film, complete with anecdotes from its maker and the cast and crew members.

‘Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro’ is a well researched, fascinating, invigorating and a fast paced read where Singh explores the vision behind the making of the most surreal comedy of Indian cinema in a clear, coherent and crisp manner.

For all those looking for some lighter moments, ‘Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro’ might have been the biggest comedy of the 80s in art house cinema, but at heart, it’s a scathing social satire, which draws humour from slapstick, surrealism, black comedy, Theatre of Absurd, Keystone Kops, Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, Groucho and Chico Marx, the physical comedy of Mehmood, Kishore Kumar, Costello and Abbott and the sardonic political humour of 1960s Czech cinema.
‘Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro’ was the brain child of Kundan Shah, a man who left his well paying job for a three year stint at FTII and was later on joined by NSD product Ranjit Kapoor and Satish Kaushik on this madcap adventure with a bunch of struggles. Funded by NFDC, the making of ‘Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro’ was one big rollercoaster ride, something which Indian cinema had never seen before. Right from its beginning till the end, the making of ‘Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro’ was complete chaos - ‘freedom without responsibility’. However, given its five hour long footage, Shah had to delete some of the zaniest scenes ever written in Hindi cinema – the disco killer (Anupam Kher) and the talking gorilla (Kundan Shah). And of course, coaxing actors to stop sulking about their roles and carry on with the logic of madness in ‘Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro’.

Neatly divided into four sections, Singh’s book is a journey down the memory lane. ‘Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro’ was born out of the disgust for the old and rusty system where corruption and lawlessness was the order of the day. No doubt, the film is a capitalist’s worst nightmare, with little or no hope of salvation for the underdog. Even as Singh documents the making of ‘Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro’, one can sense the utter misery of human situation in his book. It’s a pity that there are no more films like ‘Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro’, but how does it matter because even after twenty seven years, ‘Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro’ is still very much relevant to our wicked social system.

Jai Arjun Singh’s book is highly recommended for all those die-hard fans of the craziest film of the 80s ‘Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro’.

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