The Adaptation of Suspect X
It's raining book adaptations in OTT land. From Vishal Bhardwaj turning Agatha Christie's The Sittaford Mystery into Charlie Chopra for Netflix, to Amazon Prime's Neeyat, which is unofficially based (whatever that means) on Hercule Poirot's Christmas, producers seem to have discovered that when it comes to plot, you could do worse than borrow from authors. You know, people who write these things for a living. I recently saw Jaane Jaan, which like the rest of the books I mentioned, is an adapt of a successful thriller, which - unlike the rest of the books on this list - I have actually read.
The Devotion of Suspect X is a much-lauded, much-awarded thriller by Japanese author Keigo Hagashino, who has been termed 'Japan's Stieg Larsson', which is inaccurate at best, but that is a post for another day. The book has a slow and deliberate pace and is told mostly from the point of view of Tetsuya Ishigami, a talented mathematics teacher. Ishigami essentially helps his hapless neighbour Yasuko Hanaoka, who he has feelings for, to cover up the murder of her abusive ex-husband.
The narrative explores the cat-and-mouse chase between law enforcement and Ishigami, as the police try to investigate the murder and find the culprit.
Director Sujoy Ghosh has largely stuck to this plot and his translation of the characters and settings into the Indian context is interesting. For instance, in the book Yasuko works in a bento shop, whereas in the movie, Maya runs her own bakery-cum-restaurant in Kalimpong - a great backdrop, which as my husband said, will probably see a huge spike in tourism next year thanks to this movie. But somehow, despite the great performances (really, is there ANY role Jaideep Ahlawat CAN'T do well?) I got the same impression I do after watching so many Indian productions on the big and small screens. It's that feeling you get when you leave a restaurant after an okay-okay meal: nothing to complain about, but that's it.
In fact, in Jaane Jaan's case, there are a few trifles that stuck out like splinters in a good-looking chair. And if you're planning to watch it, better stop reading because here come the spoilers. In the end of Suspect X, Yasuko and her daughter turn themselves in, unable to live with what they've done. In Jaane Jaan, Maya is perfectly happy letting an innocent man take the fall for her crime. And it's implied that that's okay, because she committed the murder to save her daughter, after all. I mean, sure, I get that she had lofty intentions but would it have killed them to show her at least battle with these two opposing emotions: wanting to stay out of prison and keep her daughter out of prison on one hand, and struggling to allow an innocent man to take the blame for her crime.
Also, the whole karaoke bar sequence. The hell was that? To the naked eye, this woman has just found out that her ex-husband has been brutally murdered and that she is the only suspect. She will then go to a karaoke bar with THE POLICEMAN INVESTIGATING THE MURDER? And sing a song from her bar dancer days, days she has traumatic flashbacks about when she hears that particular song?
Any woman with a traumatic past would've gotten the hell out of there, even if she had been forced to go there in the first place by that policeman. Maya not only has a troubled past, she has literally
committed the murder so should be shitting bricks by now. I had expected an emotional outburst of some sort. But no. What actually happened was Maya danced seductively. On the karaoke stage. With the policeman. While singing the song. Yup.
The pity is, Kareena is a decent actress - she would've nailed a more emotional response. And in depriving her of a character with more facets than the damsel-in-distress she plays, the director has robbed us of what could've been a much more nuanced performance from her.
Still, on the whole I'd say Jaane Jaan isn't a bad watch, especially if you haven't read Suspect X. A waaaaay better watch than Neeyat, which despite it's impressive line-up of actors manages to disappoint on an epic scale, thanks to shallow characters, some stupendously lousy performances and a far too convenient ending. Welp, that's what you get when you try to do a mishmash of Agatha Christie and Knives Out and then get dialogues written by someone who thinks in English and then translates them in Hindi.