For the Chaplin-loving Kundan Shah, Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro was both a boon and bane

Seeing the first-time director in panic, Mirza asked him to refrain from logic. No rules apply here. Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro is the film that sent Kundan Shah tumbling off into immortality. Top News
Congress demands PM Modi order probe into Amit Shah son's firmWatch Padmavati trailer: Ranveer Singh as Alauddin Khilji will give you nightmares, leave you stunnedBigg Boss 11: Evicted contestant Zubair Khan files complaint against Salman KhanSo much has been written about Kundan Shah’s Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro – including Jai Arjun Singh’s splendid book on the making of this great satire published in 2010 – that anyone entrusted with the task of analysing this cult film is at the risk of merely repeating the facts. But it is one film that does not fully belong to him. Or, so we are told repeatedly by those involved in its making and critics who have had a field day deconstructing it, to the chagrin of its humble director. Yeh Jo Hai Zindagi and Nukkad are examples of the gentle comedies that Shah leaves behind. “He saw what a lot of adults didn’t see – for all its goofing around, Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro carries within it a deep lament for a better world,” Shah said in Singh’s book. The film, as it been emphasised by many critics, emerged from an inspired moment of collective madness. Could his films and TV shows be defined as a form of social realism? 2017-10-07T18:23:37+00:00″>
Updated: October 7, 2017 6:23 pm

Kundan Shah could never match the greatness of Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro. “Your script is like snow, it’s floating. Probably not impressed with the way he smells, he sprays deodorant on the worker! Or middle-of-the-road? Both, but his cinema certainly didn’t suffer from any ideological baggage, unlike his more overtly leftist friend, Saeed Mirza. In another, at the inauguration of a city bridge ironically dedicated to the dead D’Mello, a dishonourable commissioner played rather honourably by Satish Shah, Tarneja says in his speech, “One day, the poor will make homes under this bridge.”
These scenes demonstrate the inspired satirical lunacy of Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro, a film that is many things to many people. Shah drew from his middle-class background to paint a picture of the everyman. Just go through the list of people behind the making of this madcap monster – Naseeruddin Shah, Sudhir Mishra, Om Puri, Satish Shah, Bhakti Barve, Pankaj Kapur, Satish Kaushik, Ravi Baswani, Vidhu Vinod Chopra and of course, director Kundan Shah – and you will know that never in the history of cinema has there been such a potent group show. In his introductory scene, on the construction site of a looming Tarneja Towers, he’s met with a worker. Writing in Tehelka magazine on the 25th anniversary of Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro, Naseeruddin Shah, who played one of the two hopeless photographers in the film along with Ravi Baswani, quipped about Kundan Shah, “You’d probably take him for an accountant, which he nearly became until the film bug really got to him.” But don’t go by that modest appearance. This FTII-trained filmmaker, whose colleagues included Saeed Mirza, Sudhir Mishra and Vidhu Vinod Chopra, had a film buff’s passionate appreciation for cinema and could discuss anything from the serious highbrow Western classics to Chaplin and Keaton and Marx Brothers in one breath and Rajendra Nath and Mehmood on the other. An irrepressible cineaste, he continued to make films well into the 2000s but nothing could match the greatness of his debut. “It wasn’t made out of a know-it-all attitude,” Shah was quoted in author Jai Arjun Singh’s book on the film’s making. But he is also equally a huge part of the Doordarshan memories that audience of the 1980-90s have. Both are loveable losers. This writer’s favourite, however, are two cracking moments which remain as relevant and darkly funny as ever. “It’s a very tragic film,” the Akhtar Junior exclaimed. There are some similarities between the common man of Laxman and the little man of Shah’s cinema. Shah brought the DD sensibility to Kabhi Haan Kabhi Naa of 1993, in which the loser is played by Shah Rukh Khan with endearing sincerity. At heart, it’s a free-for-all. All and none are true all at once. Both scenes, for no particular reason other than their inherent lunacy, belong to Tarneja, the corrupt and manipulative builder with close political and civic nexus who believes that profit can only be had if it involves losses for others. Others freak out on the ‘Thoda Khao Thoda Pheko’ scene which has, over the years, acquired its own little corner in the memory of its fans, who one presumes have still not gotten over the Swiss cake buffoonery even in an age where you can find the most exotic of European pastries just about everywhere. Most viewers think of Kundan Shah only as the maker of Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro. If you put all this logic into it, it will become ice and sink.” When Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro was completed, Saeed Mirza’s twelve-year-old son saw what nobody else did. Tarneja is played by a wiry, almost-unrecognisable Pankaj Kapur. Thankfully, Jaani Bhi Do Yaaro never had to be shortened to JBDY on the lines of DDLJ or K3G to sound cool. Very much like its unassuming director. “There’s least literature written on comedy in the world,” he told Tehelka TV in 2011. (Shaikh Ayaz is a writer and journalist based in Mumbai.)
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© IE Online Media Services Pvt Ltd Shah’s close friend and collaborator Saeed Mirza (of Salim Langde Pe Mat Ro fame) was by all yardsticks not officially associated with Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro but his family gave the most valuable inputs a director could ask for. When Shah had a doubt about his script, he took it to the senior Akhtar – Saeed’s father, the legendary writer Akhtar Mirza. Then, there was Wagle Ki Duniya based on RK Laxman’s cartoons. Most viewers, or cultists, swear by the zany Mahabharata climax. Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro was both his badge of honour and a heavy cross to bear. There was no doubt that he was inspired by comedy, especially Chaplin and Groucho Marx, two diametrically different sources in one fundamental sense – Chaplin could never talk, Marx never stopped. A black comedy, absurdist fantasy, trenchant satire, slapstick, farce, a series of gags and even, trippy – Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro wears many hats.