Jaane Jaan Is A Riveting Watch, But Largely Driven By The Male Gaze

Jaane Jaan is a great standalone flick, but a lot of it could have been handled better, and from the POV of the main character.

Jaane Jaan is a thriller streaming on Netflix and is adapted from Keigo Higashino’s book, ‘The Devotion of Suspect X’. I found the film to be riveting, with a nail-biting build-up. However, in my personal opinion, the climax and the treatment of the female lead was a letdown.

Disclaimer: I haven’t read the book yet, and I am not sure how true the adaptation has stayed to the source material.

Story Synopsis

(SPOILERS AHEAD. Please read after you watch the movie if you are planning to)

Maya D’Souza is a single mother in Kalimpong. She runs a café and lives with her teenage daughter Tara. Maya’s neighbour is a Math teacher, Naren, who has an unrequited crush on her. One day, Maya’s abusive ex-husband, Ajit, turns up at her doorstep and threatens to harm their daughter. In the scuffle that follows, Ajit is killed. Naren pops by and stops Maya from turning herself in. He promises to divert the attention of the police, ensuring that both Maya and Tara are free of suspicion. The cat and mouse games begin. Enter investigating officer Karan, who is hot on the chase. His main suspect is Maya, but she seems to have a watertight alibi.

I felt that even though Jaane Jaan is the story of a woman, it is narrated through the male gaze. This is Maya’s story, but it gets hijacked by Naren and Karan.

A puppet dancing to blind instructions

Maya comes across as someone happy to follow instructions blindly. Wouldn’t a single mother on the run be more resourceful? Would she trust a man out of the blue, given that she has already had a bad experience once? (Her philandering husband sold her off to a bar.)

Maya plays the perfect damsel in distress, leaving her life decisions to her introverted neighbour who reveals very little. In her previous relationship with Ajit, there was a power imbalance. There is also a similar imbalance in her friendship with Naren since he knows what she did and could choose to blackmail her if he wanted to. Why would she commit the same mistake again?

The neighbour is creepy

Naren eavesdrops on Maya, sometimes stalking her. He has a poster on the common wall between their homes, under which there is gap that enables him to hear her conversations. He keeps tabs on her visitors under the garb of wanting to protect her. He visits her shop every day to the point where everyone teases her about it.

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Even though his intentions may be good, there is a thin line between devotion and delirium, and Naren is probably on the other side. Not to mention the possessiveness, and the savior complex. His actions prove he can be cool and calculating. He doesn’t flinch an eyelid while dealing with a dead body.

Karan, the police officer, is even creepier

Karan refers to Maya as the ‘hot’ suspect. He objectifies her, fantasizes about her, and is a peeping Tom. He uses the word hot neighbour at least seven times, which is six times too much. He takes her out to Karaoke on the pretext of forming a friendship, but it is only to glean information and validate her alibi. He isn’t very professional in his interrogation and lets his biases overrule his judgment.

The Single Mother’s struggles are overlooked

While Karan suspects Maya to be a scheming mastermind who elaborately planned a murder, his associate, Sundar Singh reminds him that she is a single mother, and she simply wouldn’t have the time. He tells Karan that he knows this because he was raised by one too.

This was a dialogue that warranted claps, finally rendering a new dimension to the unappreciated ‘hot neighbour.’ Maya is a fighter; someone who wants to give her daughter a better life away from her abusive husband.

The wrong lessons to the daughter

The scene that irked me the most is when Maya returns from a night of Karaoke with Karan. Her daughter Tara asks her why she went and who did she go with. When Maya tells her, Tara wonders if the Teacher would be upset. What if he stopped helping them? The daughter is now led to believe that you need someone to save you, and you must keep your saviour happy for them to help you. A wrong lesson.

Another film that is based on the premise of a murder and an alibi is Drishyam. A teenage girl finds her classmate taking videos of her in the shower. He threatens to circulate them if she doesn’t agree to his demands. Her mother gets to know and pleads with him to respect ‘her daughter’s honour’; if the videos are leaked out, she will be destroyed. In the scuffle that follows, the boy gets killed by accident, and efforts to cover up the murder begin.

If only mothers taught their daughters that real honour lies in courage, in standing up and dragging the pervert to the law, and only the perpetrator need have shame and not the victim! But then again, we wouldn’t have a murder mystery at all.

While Jaane Jaan was great as a standalone slick thriller, I felt it lacked the punch that powerhouse talents like Kareena or Vijay could deliver. The real hero is Jaideep who shoulders most of the weight, portraying a character that is genius and crazy in equal measure. Despite the math professor’s best effort the numbers don’t add up when it comes to motive and opportunity.

All said and done, Jaane Jaan is an intriguing and enjoyable watch, different from your run-of-the-mill stories, and definitely worth a dekko!

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About the Author

Lalitha Ramanathan

Lalitha is a blogger and a dreamer. Her career is in finance, but writing is her way to unwind! Her little one is the center of her Universe. read more...

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