Jawaani Jaaneman: Alaya F is the future of good cinema

Alia Bhatt, Janhvi Kapoor, Sara Ali Khan, Ananya Panday – usually when star kids are launched, it’s a big affair. While Student Of The Year couldn’t tap into Alia Bhatt’s talent, her debut was the much talked about affair of the town. Same for the other girls mentioned above. None of them proved, with their first films, that they were meant for celluloid. In times like these, here we have, Alaya F, who debuts with Nitin Kakkar’s Jawaani Jaaneman, with one of the most enviable debut performances in recent times.

The film is about a 21 year old Tia (Alaya F) who has come from Amsterdam to London in search of her father, played by Saif Ali Khan. When they go for a DNA test to confirm, Tia also finds out that she’s pregnant. Khan’s Jassie, aka Jazz, has always run away from two things – truth and responsibility. The truth that he is an ageing man and the responsibility of family. He’s a carefree 40-something-year-old man and she’s a responsible 21 year old. Basically, she comes into the scene to sort his life out. Initially, Jazz is hesitant about the sudden realisation that he now has a daughter who he never knew existed. But eventually, because this is a Hindi film, he begins to love and appreciate his daughter. Jawaani Jaaneman is their story.

Jawaani Jaaneman Bombay Balloon Review 2
Alaya F and Saif Ali Khan in a still from the film

The narrative is interesting but director Nitin Kakkar and writers Hussain and Abbas Dalal fail to make a mark till the second half of the film. The first half is almost entirely about Jazz’s adventures as a ‘young’ man, as we have seen in Homi Adajania’s Cocktail.  There’s almost nothing new to his character and the way he behaves. Khan does make Jazz his own, but there isn’t anything new for him to work with. Having said that, Saif Ali Khan sure gives a good performance, as he has been, in recent times. Jazz is everything that Khan isn’t in real life (at least of what we know about the Nawab), and yet, Khan adds his charm to Jazz, and that is his brilliance as an actor.

Jawaani Jaaneman Bombay Balloon Review 3
Saif Ali Khan in a still from the film

It’s only in the second half that the writers-director add in a lot of emotions, and Tabu, that the film really works its magic and somewhat makes up for the first half. Speaking of the second half, it is Tabu’s character you must look out for. She plays Tia’s hippie mother who’s almost always smoking pot. She’s invested in yoga and meditation and wants Tia to deliver her baby in the bathtub. She’s a laughing riot. And it’s Tabu playing this character, so you know you’re going to be getting a lovely performance, which we do.

There’s also Kubbra Sait, who plays Rhea, Jazz’s friend-cum-hairstylist-cum-eventual lover. Sait is phenomenal as Rhea. I haven’t seen much of her work before this, but if this is how she performs every time, we need to see more of her and she deserves to be a part of mainstream cinema.

But the real star of the film is Alaya F. In times when star kids are launched irrespective of talent and effort, Alaya comes as a breath of fresh air, because what she has done in Jawaani Jaaneman not just reflects natural talent but also acquired talent. You see the effort she has put in to make Tia her own, to stand alongside both, Saif Ali Khan and Tabu and then give one of the best debuts in recent times. It’s not just a good debut performance, but a good performance in general.

In the first half, she hasn’t been given many of the emotional scenes. She’s cheerful and jolly. But in the second half, Alaya does much of the lifting in the film in terms of emotional context. And she does all of this with a certain charm. While there is effort put into the performance, she makes sure you don’t see it on screen. On celluloid, her performance is as natural as it could be. What she hides from you are perhaps the hours and hours of training and workshops she would’ve attended to make sure that her performance was as natural. And to hold her own alongside two phenomenal actors, that’s something she masters. Alaya proves that she was meant to face the camera, and that she, perhaps belongs only on a set.

Also, watch out for the emotional scenes between Tia and Jazz. Both Alaya and Saif Ali Khan are are a treat in those scenes. Their chemistry is just brilliant.

All in all, Jawaani Jaaneman is a must watch for this new talent and also for the other actors. While the script falls a little short, these four actors (along with the ensemble) make this film heartfelt and warm.

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