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Updated: May 21, 2014 16:34 IST

Ahead of its time

Sudhish Kamath
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A still from Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron
A still from Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron

Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro hits big screens again, and is still relevant after a good three decades

Good science fiction always gets the future right. And, NFDC’s restored version of Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro playing at PVR Cinemas around the country, under the Director’s Rare banner is fantastic social science fiction... Proof of Kundan Shah’s genius to be able to make a film about the state of affairs in the country so ahead of his time!

Tough to believe that three decades ago, Kundan Shah made a film that’s this close to the world around us today. The year was 1983 — when there were no digital cameras, mobile phones or any satellite channels except good old Doordarshan.

This was one of those rare movies I still remember watching as a kid on a Saturday evening on Doordarshan before a power cut played spoilsport. The power came back just in time before the ending. I remember spending the next few years checking newspaper listings hoping to find a repeat telecast of the film.

The images of a dead DeMello (played by Satish Shah) drifting away in his coffin have stayed with me all these years. To be honest, I had forgotten everything else about the film except how much we laughed and cursed the power cut.

As years passed and we had access to video CDs, I bought a copy by a label called Ultra Video CD. For a long time, I didn’t have the heart to actually watch it; I was worried it wouldn’t age all that well.

I was glad and relieved when I finally caught it. It felt like claiming back a part of my childhood. I caught it again on the restored DVD when it hit the stands earlier this year at a film festival held in my alma mater. And I realised that the story of two spirited photographers Vinod (Naseeruddin Shah) and Sudhir (Ravi Baswani) trying to expose the corrupt had pretty much the same impact on the students.

Thanks to the restoration, it’s now bigger and clearer. Not just to entertain those of us who look fondly at it with nostalgia-tinted glasses, but to reach out to a whole new generation that missed out on catching this classic on the big screen.

And, nothing’s changed. We still have those power cuts. In fact, longer than what they used to be, thanks to the crisis. We still have scams; bigger than ever.

Writers Sudhir Mishra and Kundan Shah had this clear a vision of what the future was going to hold. The big economic divide, skyscrapers, corruption, scams, exposes, sting operations snowballing into a comedy of errors, the media circus... only for all that drama to end with the truth being swept under the carpet.

No surprise then that this black comedy still manages to strike a chord.

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