- Presents a microcosm of India.
- Shows what works in India and what does not.
- Is hilarious, idealistic, crazy, outrageous, realistic but not preachy.
- Made by a first-time director assisted and acted by who’s who of Indian cinema in later years.
- Made on a shoe-string budget, without the dance and songs routine, goes on to have a cult following in Indian cinema.
That is Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro.
Kundan Shah takes us on a loony ride with Vinod (Naseeruddin Shah) and Sudhir (Ravi Baswani), the two naive, struggling and eternally optimistic photographers. We get introduced to Tarneja (Pankaj Kapoor) and Ahuja (Om Puri), the two crooked builders vying for the contracts from the corrupt Municipal Commissioner D’Mello (Satish Shah). The principled editor Shobha Sen (Bhakti Barve)of Khabardar magazine hires Vinod and Sudhir to spy on the dealings between the Commissioner and the builders.
It is impossible to not relate or turn a blind eye to starry-eyed young romanticism of Vinod and Sudhir as they try to make sense of the brutal world around them.
As Vinod and Sudhir unravel the covert transactions, they take a number of photographs in a park to enter the photography contest. When they develop their pictures, they realize that Tarneja is shooting someone with a pistol in the backdrop. They go back to find the body and stumble upon one of a pair of gold cufflinks. Sometime later, they attend the inauguration of a bridge dedicated to late Municipal Commissioner D’Mello and find the other cuff link. They dig up the area in the night and find the dead body of D’Mello in the coffin.
Vinod and Sudhir realize what they have unearthed. They want the criminals to be punished and in the process, they get to know how the persons and the system work in India – businessmen, bureaucracy, news media, police – corrupt, inept, playing to the money power, and not the public good.
There is a Mahabharata sequence nearer to the end of the movie, arguably the most comical scene of the Indian cinema. The end is abrupt and comes as a jolt. It is something that the viewers knew all along but would not want to admit, would not want to see and witness first-hand, the stark practical reality of India.
All along, Vinod and Sudhir hum “Hum Honge Kamyab”, the Hindi version of “We Shall Overcome”. The director makes us back the protagonists against all odds, and we do so in a false hope that truth prevails.
Given how the Indian censor board works, it is nothing sort of a miracle that Kundan Shah gets to portray such an accurate depiction of India without ruffling the powers-to-be. Maybe because the director depicts all the corrupt elements of the Indian society, but he does not include the most-corrupt – Indian politicians.
There can never be a sequel to Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro. There is no more to show beyond the death of India.