The germ of the idea behind the film Janaki Jaane is pretty interesting. It talks about the hardships of a woman with this panicking disorder whenever she is alone or in the dark. But the issue with this film, directed by Aniesh Upaasana, is that it has very old tools to develop that idea into a proper script, and the conflicts and solutions are too outdated to make us feel for that central character. Even though Navya Nair is terrific in pulling off all shades of that character, the hodgepodge treatment of the subject ruins its scope to be impactful.
Janaki is a girl from a village who belongs to a middle-class family. She panics very easily. She can’t handle the darkness, she can’t go to the bathroom without the assurance that someone is outside, and she can’t walk alone to her house. In the movie, we see Janaki’s married life with this contractor named Unni Mukundan and how this characteristic of hers affects that relationship.
This particular situation which is a psychological condition, is indeed a catchy element when you look at it from the perspective of a commercial filmmaker. We have seen filmmakers like Shankar using the psychological disorders of characters to create vigilante thrillers. Aniesh Upaasana actually prefers a more empathetic approach, and he wants to show the viewer how she overcame that situation. The writers are very clear about the premise and the climax. But they struggle to build a convincing conflict and a believable recovery track. I have always gotten irritated with this script trope where everyone says, “I don’t want to hear anything,” when the hero/heroine says, “Wait, lemme explain!” That same strategy is repeated here as well, and it lacked conviction.
What has really worked for me in this movie are two performances. One is obviously from Navya Nair. As Janaki, she is extremely convincing. From the fear and panting to the humorous version of Janaki’s panic, she makes that character look real on screen. There is no restraint in her performance to show the vulnerability and naivety of that character. The second performance is actually from Sharaf U Dheen, who, with his signature coolness, made that small part of the movie that could have become a cringe-worthy motivational speech episode look so much better. Saiju Kurup is very much the hero of the film. But the creative decision to make his character a sort of caricature pulls the audience backward whenever they try to empathize with the characters. Johny Antony was less comical for a change, and so was Kottayam Naseer. George Kora was an apt casting. Anarkali Marikar, Sminu Sijo, James Eliya, Pramod Velliyanad, etc., are some of the major names in the cast.
Regarding the script’s treatment, Janaki Jaane is somewhat of a mess. Janaki’s fears are real, but her would-be/ husband is a caricature. When her condition puts her in a difficult situation, how they have treated the whole media chapter feels like a loud satire. The aunt character, played by Sminu Sijo, is purely created for the sake of comedy. The way the characters and the film tolerate her till the end kind of makes you question how updated the writers’ tastes are. Every conflict or obstruction that comes in the way of Janaki has this exaggerated nature. The writing doesn’t have the conviction to make you forget about the easy practical solution to that problem. Syamaparakash’s choice of locations and shot angles helps the film occasionally in representing the emotional space of the title character.
I would never say Janaki Jaane was a concept that had zero potential. With a character like that, the placement and intensity of the conflict were highly critical. But the lack of conviction and the way it conveniently goes after that women empowerment track wipes out all the possibilities of the movie to be a more authentic and moving drama about someone overcoming their fear.
The issue with this film is that it has very old tools to develop that idea into a proper script, and the conflicts and solutions are too outdated to make us feel for that central character.
Green: Recommended Content
Orange: The In-Between Ones
Red: Not Recommended