There is something about Tamil directors, some of whom seem to understand the human mind as few filmmakers are able to. In Jaanu, an unabashed remake of the Tamil original, 96, that incisive moment comes when Janaki Devi aka Jaanu (Samantha Akkineni) narrates a made-up event from her past to trainee photographers of K Ramachandra aka Ram (Sharwanand). In this story, a young Ram, in his late teens, asks a girl named Vasanthi to tell Jaanu that he has come to meet her. “K Ramachandra has come to meet you,” is what she would have told Jaanu, had he – and she – not been as shy, ends up saying “someone” has come to meet her.
This single use of that word is why Jaanu and Ram’s lives turn out the way they do. Ram, an efficient travel photographer, is a nature-lover. The motif of nature permeates the film. But there is more to Ram. He is also a God-lover, and this is subtly played up. The film espouses the philosophy of fatalism. The school watchman (Raghu Babu) is nicknamed Kaapala Devudu. One of the few lines he speaks is: “Let what is predetermined happen.” (Since he says this on the phone to an unimportant character, it doesn’t quite lodge as strongly). The director may well be saying that Ram was destined to meet the wrong person (read: Vasanthi) in his pursuit of Jaanu. In an unlikely scene, where Samantha’s character asks Sharwa whether he is still a virgin, he tells her he had promised Hanuman that he will always be a virgin. Is it comical? Perhaps not. In two other scenes, references to Lord Venkateswara and Ganapayya prayer are made.
After the beautifully shot Life Of Ram song, the protagonist and his trainee photographers are seen in a temple. The force of nature and the eternal presence of God make this an almost semi-religious love story.
Jaanu is about two estranged souls figuring out what might have gone wrong 15 years ago in their lives. The nostalgia of their love story is absorbing. The film goes back and forth and the parallel journey is narrated with ease, helped in no small measure by the smooth intercuts. Like 96, this is a nostalgic ride interspersed with highly emotional moments.
The early scenes, to be sure, come with a tinge of Ravi Teja’s Naa Autograph (which, too, incidentally, was a remake of the Tamil film, Autograph). But unlike Teja, Sharwanand’s expressions here are less dramatic. His social awkwardness in the presence of Jaanu makes him endearing. At the same time, one wishes he weren’t in a permanent state of coyness and even embarrassment in her presence. The scene where Jaanu, a married woman, places her palm on his chest, an act that has a romantic context to it because of their past, is unsettling. The reunion moment where Jaanu offers Ram the same plate from which she just ate is again, unrealistic. While Ram continues to be the somewhat reticent guy he is, Jaanu is livelier to a fault.
Mirchi Kiran has written the dialogues, which again seem inconsistent. Even if the lines spoken by the friends (Vennela Kishore, Tagubothu Ramesh, and others) can afford to be unremarkable, the monologues of the lead pair needed to be more striking. That said, this is the kind of film where silences convey a lot, like in that Pawan Kalyan superhit, Toli Prema. But somehow, the silences here don’t come with as much mystique. Also, the light comments/repartees of the friends are discomfiting. Furthermore, the moral dilemma, which the viewer might have otherwise felt, is allowed to fade away by the to-and-fro style of the narration.
The emotions are potent, without ever veering into melodrama. The throwbacks to Before Sunset and Blue Jay are evident. It helps that the younger selves of Jaanu and Ram are played by measured performers (Sai Kiran Kumar and Gouri Kishan). Varsha Bollamma (as Sharwa’s trainee), mooning over her trainer, is there to indicate that Ram is an eligible bachelor, not a loser. Sharwanand is commendable as a loner with a heavy heart. He emotes seamlessly with his eyes. Samantha proves again that she is an actor who can deliver monologues with ease. Chinmayi’s dubbing may not blow your mind, but her singing voice in this film, in renditions of Oohale and Pranam, do so profoundly. Music director Govind Vasantha’s BGM is splendid. Powered by his music, Jaanu turns out to be a decent love story.