Sanjay Jha

Bloggers Meet Director : Praan Jaye Par Shaan Na Jaye (2003)

Michael has come up with another scheme to gain world domination bring the bollywood bloggers of the world together and as this means watching a film I had on my list for a while now and whose director is one of us I just couldn't resist.

So here is my review of Sanjay Jha's

As this is supposed to be a part of a serious project, I’ll try not to give in to any silliness or screaming around but instead will try to write a serious review befitting the occasion.


Erm. Sorry. That was … sorry ...

Right. Well.


First things first: Watching PJPSNJ (Oh, what a great way to start this. I needed five tries to get the abbreviation right …) was one of the high points of my week so if you’re looking for harsh criticism go somewhere else (list of reviews here or at the end of this post). Besides I’m on a huge sugar high after eating nearly a whole bag of Merci Coffee&Cream chocolates … *bounce*

Personally I liked the first one and a half hours better than what follows afterwards. That’s mainly because I liked the way the different stories of the people in the chawl are presented. I also found the use of the conventions and stereotypes that can be found in so many films quite well-done. First of all it’s really funny to watch and secondly, they set off the often quite shocking stories about the violence and abuse the people (mainly the women) are faced with and which is even more shocking because it comes unexpectedly after scenes that are really funny.

In a way, that reminded me of Brecht’s use of the “alienation effect” which serves to keep the audience from becoming emotionally involved in a play and from identifying with the characters. I’m not saying that the film is supposed to be any form of epic theatre (even though parts of it are very stagey) but I think a similar effect is partly achieved here. The various narrative frames, the way the audience is addressed directly, the over the top portrayal of the characters and their actions all prevented me from becoming really emotionally involved (especially at the ending) while making the serious scenes have a much stronger impact on me.

My favourite aspect of the film is that all the women are shown as really strong, intelligent and resourceful and that they actually get to fight back themselves and don't need to be rescued. Yay! Even if it is a bit utopic I really enjoyed the story of Mona because it showed the men's hypocrisy in a very clever way and because of the scene in which all the women defend Mona. However, that scene also shows one of the weaker points of the film: It is too utopian, too much of a feel-good scene to really do justice to the topic.

There’s also a nice twist on my least favourite kind of plot, that of the “ugly” girl who just has to take off her glasses to get the man of her dreams. I really liked the way Diya Mirza’s character turned the tables on those guys ;) The way that particular story ends was a bit disappointing though, because I would have liked her to tell that bloke to sod off if he only likes her when she's pretty.

Wow! What a difference!

I also enjoyed the way the building almost seems to be a set on a stage while the various characters are introduced thus adding to the feeling of watching a play on stage.

My monitor was repeatedly in danger of being sprayed with tea (Yummy! Apple-cinammon!) because of the really funny allusions to other films. I just loved the the Lagaan spoof. And the Deewaar-scene! And the qawwali!

And the very pschedelic blackmarket ticket guy!

And the way Sushmita makes fun of herself!

And this:

And this:

The final bit was a bit harder to stomach for me because I had a slight problem with the humour focussing on the tradition of Sati, which for me seems to be one of the most unfunny topics ever. Still, I found myself laughing a lot. My inner feminist of course objected to the way the feminist activists are shown to be no better than the fundamentalists, even if experience tells me that they can be like that in real life too. ;)

The bit I really didn’t like was the preachy bit right before the ending because that’s just not my cup of tea at all. (Plus I kept staring at the bald wig because it’s soo badly made and missed most of the speech.)

Well, the final song with Sushmita made up for it ;) And as that melody is on the DVD’s menu I’ll never get it out of my head.

As for the actors I liked most of them very much. Especially the as always wonderful Vijay Raaz who not only provides an enormously enjoyable and funny commentary on the goings-on but also has one of the scenes which had the greatest emotional impact on me. And he does this:

Aman Verma seems a bit pale because his role is a bit boring compared to all the other characters, but I like him and his character - and I love that bit:

The women all do a great job, especially Divya Dutta whose performance is amazing! (I have to watch more of her films!) And Sushmita is hilarious of course! (Have I mentionned that I love Sushmita?)

Just one thing: There’s hardly any pink


*pout* I need more pink! NOW! At least there’s one slightly psychedelic shirt:

Clearly, Praan Jaye Par Na Shaan Jaye (Yay! Got it right on the second try!) is not a perfect film, its main problem being the way it is trying to do too many things at the same time. The social commentary works quite well but too often it is combined with solutions that are too unrealistic, too Bollywood. The ironical and parodistic treatment sometimes doesn't seem very consistent at times. It's a flawed film but most of the time it really worked for me and I had loads of fun watching it. If this were a review on Mission BAS I guess we'd give 3 or 4 (out of 5) rubberduckies:

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