At one point in the Jaoon Kahan Bata Ae Dil, the guy (Rohit Kokate-we are never told the character names) retorts “Mujhy nasha hai stress ka”.
The dialogue is in complete contradiction to what the character has tried to portray to his girlfriend (Khushboo Upadhyay) until this point in the film. Yet it doesn’t feel wrong. Because for this entitled man, nothing is off-limits when he is trying to prove his point. If he feels vulnerable at the slightest, his response is to give an unveiled threat of walking away or flagrant sweet talk.
Director and writer Aadish Keluskar presents his take on the power dynamics in modern relationships. We peek into a day in the lives of a lower-middle-class couple, running the rat race in the city of Mumbai. Their typical date starts from Marine Drive as the couple takes a long walk. Then they take a taxi to go to an Irani café. From there they go to see a film, followed by a visit to the beach. And eventually, it ends at one of those rooms available for rent per hour.
Through these phases, we get to hear a lot of dialogue between the two. The guy has a problem with almost everything in the world: a nihilist. Whether its politics, jobs, films, the institution of marriage, love, break up, he has a strong opinion about anything and everything. Those opinions are bleak and at times harrowing.
While the girl is slightly naïve and generally hopeful about life and her boyfriend. Whenever he disses her, she responded ‘tu aisay he bolta hai, mai janti hai’ (or something to that effect). It’s clear that this is an abusive and toxic relationship for the girl. Yet, she is adamant to hold on. At one point, she begs him ‘tu bus mujhse 1 ghanta roz phone per bat kia kar’.
This relationship will remind you of the different people in your life. Perhaps, none so abusive but the character of Rohit Kokate is a manifestation of different individuals who manipulate and deceive their partners into believing that the abuse they face is somehow their own fault. It also reflects on a mindset and society which views a single and “ageing” woman with condescension. Being financially independent doesn’t mean anything if girls are taught their self-worth is linked to being married or desirable for men.
The film talks about other vital issues like divisive policies, censorship, the mishmash of popularity and politics, the disintegration of society, the futility of marriage and life. However, the point on which the director really focuses on is defining the self-worth of this girl, in her own eyes. She is intelligent, financially independent, caring and sensitive. While the guy is selfish and obnoxious towards her. Yet, the idea he has in his mind is, that this relationship is like charity. He is being generous by dating this dark-skinned, 30-year-old Muslim woman. Hence, the idea of consent is taken for granted by the boy and the girl.
The film gradually gets darker. We are seeing just another day in the life of a Mumbai couple. A camera happens to be there. So, nothing is glamourized. Cinematography by Amey V Chavan matches the vision of the director. We see close up of these actors, without much (or perhaps any) make up. Their scars are magnified. When the guy is almost forcing himself on the girl, the camera zooms in. We are asked to share her anguish. The long climax scene shows coitus but it’s not how we are accustomed to seeing in movies. The raw, and disturbing scene finishes with the girl dancing her heart out. It’s jarringly pragmatic.
Jaoon Kahan Bata Ae Dil is a gripping tale. The idea that you can change a person is questioned. It’s worth watching, even at times if it does make you uncomfortable.