Jawani Diwani: Frothy, fashionable ode to the ’70s!

A still from Jawani Diwani.I am a sucker for nostalgia, be it mine or someone else’s.

So it was quite a treat to watch a film about a bunch of college-goers, played by actors from my parents’ generation, with my mother in tow.

Narendra Bedi’s 1972 campus romance Jawani Diwani, starring Randhir Kapoor and Jaya Bhaduri, captures the exuberant air of the flower power generation against a classic Bollywood narrative and Rahul Dev Burman’s rollicking soundtrack with such unapologetic abandon, there’s little to complain.

Here rebellion is attractive and responsibility is not. Lecture-ready parents don’t understand or try to bridge the disturbing lack of communication. They’re either a victim of their own conditioning or preoccupied with office to do the needful, feel teachers.

Except Jawani Diwani, produced by Ramesh Behl, is much too flamboyant, fashionable and frivolous to stray from its cheery pace and dwell excessively on the afore-mentioned problems of youth.

It’s a costume drama, really — an ode to the psychedelic seventies that gets all its heart and beats from RD’s sound — one so eclectic, pulsating, melodic, sexy and ageless.

Lyricist Anand Bakshi adds to the sensuality (Kaliyon ko khilne se pehle nahi todte) and sweetness (Dekh ke bas ek hi jhalak ho gaye hum paagal) blissfully oblivious of its remix potential.

A still from Jawani Diwani.There isn’t much in terms of plot.

Randhir Kapoor falls in love with well-heeled Iftekhar’s daughter (Jaya B) over orchestrated bike breakdowns and group antakshris. That’s a problem because decades ago, his elder brother (Balraj Sahni) married Iftekhar’s sister (Nirupa Roy) against his wishes and strained ties for good.

Director Bedi realises where the real masti lies and focuses on the college banter involving Randhir’s boisterous gang of friends (includes a kurta-clad Paintal, a girl nicknamed Bhaijaan), on-going rivalry with Narendra Nath’s show-off Reggie and the numerous pranks and bets they engage in, to win over the pretty new admission (Jaya). This would go on to become a beaten-to-death pattern of how college kids behave in films to follow.

As an aside, this ‘all play no work’ college you see in Jawani Diwani is the prestigious engineering establishment, IIT Bombay.
Jawani Diwani prides itself on casting against type.

A K Hangal’s straightforward principal is a far cry from his pleading, poor guy roles.

Nirupa Roy refrains from her tear-jerking tactics to deliver the toupee-sporting Sahni’s no-nonsense better half. She’s whistle-worthy cool in the scene she ticks off her husband for going in martyr mode, “Is ghar ke liye tumne jo kuch kiya hai tumhara farz tha. Maine jo kuch kiya hai mera farz tha, kisine kissi pe ehsaan nahi kiya. Phir kabhi apni kurbaani ka bhaashan mat dena.”

Satyen Kappu as Randhir Kapoor’s goofy uncle proves there’s more to him than a glum face.

A still from Jawani Diwani.Bollywood’s beloved cop Jagdish Raj shows his comic chops in the hilarious “Tumhare kitne baap hain?” episode wherein Kappu, Viju Khote and he land at Iftekhar’s home simultaneously insisting they’re RK Jr’s dad.

Even if Kapoor is tailor-made as the imprudent brat who gets away with a lot of mischief flashing those puppy dog eyes, Jaya Bhaduri gets a hip makeover in bell sleeves, bell bottoms and bouffant, mouthing lines like, ‘Dil toh is tarah bheja hai jaise bijli ka bill ho.’

That same year the actress also appeared in Gulzar’s Parichay in an aesthetic she’s most identified with — sensitive, sensible and substantial.

Her kitschy clothes and elaborate hairstyles lack the effortless chic of Zeenat Aman and tagging along a rag doll (a prop to signify her motherless, affection-deficit upbringing) to college is creepy even for the seventies. Amazingly though, the lady pulls off the charade and never runs out of good humour lending Jawani Diwani its madcap edge.

Both in their mid 20s then, she shares a fizzy chemistry with the frolicking, flippant Kapoor. The man’s a bouncy ball of impulses whether he’s reading love letters perched on a toilet seat, stomaching jokes about his flab or bringing out the claws at his favourite foe with comic contempt, “Woh Benny ka bacha aaj kutte ka bacha ban gaya hai!”

If this brand of scorn feels familiar, you’re probably a Kader Khan fan like yours truly. Jawani Diwani is his first film as a writer. In an interview to rediff.com, he reveals he made Rs 1,500 on this assignment, which led to an offer of another campus caper, Khel Khel Mein.

A still from Jawani Diwani.Regardless, extra brownie points to the Ponga Pandit hero for doing complete onscreen justice to Kishore Kumar’s animated fervour in Yeh Jawani Hai Diwani, Saamne Yeh Kaun Aaya, Agar Saaz, Jaane Jaan and Nahi Nahi in a way that can only be topped by the legend himself.

His co-singer Asha Bhosle impresses no less showcasing her vocal range in one of my all-time favourite ditties from the RD-Asha oeuvre. The part where she inquires Tum Kahaaaan? (Jaane Jaan Dhoondta) is in equal parts hot and haunting. As is the underrated Hai Tauba Mujhe Tune. Not to forget the trademark Asha touch Nahi Nahi (a solo composition she previously rendered in Bengali as Chokhe Chokhe Kotha Bolo, Sonar Juti) receives in the form of her coy ‘Na-na-na’s.

It’s these magical details, like RD’s ‘rrrreeeraaataraaaturrrraaa-isms’ bubbling in the background when the actors make their way into a brightly lit nightclub that Jawani Diwani finds its essential repeat value.

Like I emphasised earlier, the romp’s prime objective is to entertain. The characters aren’t particularly bright or brave except Balraj Sahni who acts as the voice of reason after his jobless kid brother elopes to settle in domestic bliss with his minor girlfriend.

A still from Jawani Diwani.When the script runs out of romantic schemes, it doles out familial conflict and student activism as an afterthought but, thankfully, wraps up speedily to overstay its welcome.

Director-producer-composer troika of Bedi, Behl and Burman tried to recreate the breezy romance of its Jawani Diwani jodi, once again playing characters called Vijay and Nita, withDil Deewana but it didn’t meet with success.

It doesn’t matter now. What matters is that you’re young just once. And to look back and smile at that time, its colourful reminder in film and how it made you feel is the next best thing.

This column was first published on rediff.com.

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