The most annoying affectation in the movies today may be the framing device set in the present day. 2 States structured its story as the flashbacks of a man baring his heart to his shrink. In Purani Jeans, we have the flashbacks of the US-returned Sid (Tanuj Virwani), an engineer who dreams of becoming a writer. (Score!) The flashback itself isn’t the problem. In Lakshya, for instance, the entire first half was presented in the form of the protagonist’s memories – in an uninterrupted stretch. These new films, however, keep returning to the here and the now, every ten minutes – this cuts into the flow of events. All Sid does in the present is mope around, remembering his past. Why not just give us a few moping-around shots at the beginning, thus establishing his state of mind, and then let the flashback unfold without a break? Do we need to be constantly reminded that these are a sad man’s memories?
The structure is the least of the problems in Tanushri Chattrji Bassu’s Purani Jeans, whose title is meant as a metaphor for the friends in whose company we feel as comfortable as in an old pair of jeans – preferably going commando, I suppose, given that the film opens with the Jim Morrison quote, “A friend is someone who gives you total freedom to be yourself.” Sid returns to his hometown and recalls his growing-up days with his best pals, the quintet that called itself “Kasauli Cowboys.” He’s not in touch with them anymore, and this strikes an instant chord with those of us who grew up in the days before the Internet, when the end of school or college usually meant that you slowly begin to lose your friends, especially after the initial enthusiasm of writing letters wanes and new friends – at the University you’re in, or at work – make themselves available. It’s a subject that can make grown men weep.
Purani Jeans induces tears all right – but of terminal boredom. Sam (Aditya Seal) worships Jim Morrison, a musician who died young. It doesn’t take too long to figure out what fate holds in store for him. His angst is compounded when he and Sid fall for the same girl, Nayantara (Izabelle Leite, who looks like a cross between Ali MacGraw and the Sunsilk Girl). And you have to wonder: this is a film targeted at today’s kids, and they’re still trotting out the love triangle, with lines about destiny and having to choose between pyaar and dosti? Purani Jeans is old-fashioned in every imaginable way. A sunny day turns cloudy and it begins to rain, just as scenes of heartbreak begin to play out.
It’s been a while since a film featured such all-round bad performances. Virwani appears to have graduated from the Furrowed Brow School of Drama. Seal, meanwhile, has clearly been schooled in the Shatter Glass in Anger Institute of Theatrics. Even the older actors, usually reliable performers like Sarika and Rajit Kapur (clad in suspenders and a Clive of India wig), turn in their worst. I kept thinking that he was so puckered up – and then, she called him an asshole. It’s the only time I laughed.
When I say I’m losing patience with these films, I’m usually told that it’s because I’m a critic and I’m jaded and I see so many movies and so forth. But I don’t think it’s just that. I think anyone would react violently to situations like the one where a love-struck Sam carves Nayantara’s name on his arm, and instead of running away screaming at this display of insanity she reacts as if he showed her a zit. As a kid, I used to watch three-hour movies all the time, and many of them were bad – but I didn’t mind. Now, even these two-hours-plus-change films have begun to seem way too long. Perhaps the clock has begun to tick louder?
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