Seriously Funny

Seriously Funny

How many times can you see Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro? If you are me,any ol’ time at all.

DVD: Jaane bhi do yaaro

NFDC,Cinemas Of India,Double disc DVD,Rs 199

How many times can you see Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro? If you are me,any ol’ time at all. Every time I sit down to it,I tell myself I’ll just watch my favourite portions,and then I find myself just re-watching the whole. Because,and this is a no-brainer,there is no part of this Kundan Shah classic which is not a favourite.

Real-life filmmakers Vinod Chopra (yes,the Vidhu) and Sudhir Mishra will never be forgotten by cinephiles and fans,not just because of their body of work. But the fact that their names were the monikers of the characters played by Naseerudin Shah and Ravi Baswani. Viewers who chance upon the film now have deep discussions on how ‘meta’ it is,but when it was being made,it was all part of the game. Cast your eye down the cast and credits (Pankaj Kapur,Neena Gupta,Satish Kaushik,Om Puri,Satish Shah,Bhakti Barve),and you will find everyone in there,but most of the names we now know so well were strugglers at the time. Trying to make movies without joining the practices of the mainstream film industry,trying to create their own niche,and they were all connected with this film in some manner or the other: Vidhu Vinod,and Sudhir were both active participants and sounding boards on JBDY.

In the bonus disc of the double DVD just brought out by NFDC (which is now busy bringing out a whole series of its best films under the banner ‘Cinemas of India’),director Kundan Shah and writer Ranjit Kapoor talk about the film,and the crazy,slapdash manner in which it was made.


Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro inherited all of that,turning by some alchemy into the blackest of comedies which hides its blackness under its crazy slapdash-ness. The slapstick and the comic schtick,which remain unparalleled to this day,is what you see first. And then you see just how angry this film is,angry at the failed political system,angry at failed personal connections,angry at the way the world is getting buried under illegal gains and corruption. Nothing and no one is spared. Politicians,babus,the press are all tarred with the same brush. And the innocents who are the victims of this unholy troika are represented by the photographers Sudhir and Vinod,who are only out to make an honest living,and who fail. Magnificently.

At the time of the film’s making (it was out in 1983),the administration in Maharashtra was mired in all kinds of dodgy cases. A flyover had collapsed because of inferior material. And a couple of Kundan Shah’s photographer friends happened to recount a few of their experiences around then. These elements became part of a script which uses all the conventions of a broad comedy (count the number of slaps the characters aim at each other) while telling a tale which is trenchant and truthful while managing to keep you in splits. You roll on the floor,laughing. But the reason why JBDY will never be forgotten it that it is so funny it hurts.