(MENAFN- Khaleej Times) Published: Thu 21 Sep 2023, 7:25 PM
Turning a bestselling book into a movie is like trying to fit an elephant into a Mini Cooper - it might be a bumpy ride, but it is guaranteed to get people talking. And people are indeed talking about the much-anticipated Hindi film Jaane Jaan recently released on Netflix. Jaane Jaan is an official adaptation of one of the biggest-selling Japanese thrillers ever, The Devotion of Suspect X (2005) by writer Keigo Higashino. The mystery novel was a worldwide bestseller with millions of copies sold. Besides Higashino's stellar reputation and his brilliant source material, the fervent anticipation for Jaane Jaan is also because of the director Sujoy Ghosh, who has delivered taut thrillers like Kahaani (2012) and Badla (2019) in the past. But the real showstopper is the charismatic Kareena Kapoor Khan, making her OTT debut with a lead role that seems tailor-made for her. She plays the mysterious Maya D'Souza who murders her abusive husband in self-defence. Kareena is supported by the immensely talented Vijay Verma and Jaideep Ahlawat as the other two main characters in the film.
What truly sets The Devotion of Suspect X apart is its exceptional and powerful ending. Without revealing any spoilers, let me tell you that it is the story of a single mother and her daughter who commit a murder and a man helps them cover it up amidst a police investigation. It sounds familiar, doesn't it? Yes, you are absolutely right; it is also the plot of Ajay Devgn's successful Drishyam (2015) which was the remake of a Malayalam film of the same name, both written and directed by Jeethu Joseph. Despite the striking similarities, Jeethu Joseph maintained that his film was neither an adaptation nor inspired by Higashino's novel. The controversy emerged because producer Ekta Kapoor had officially acquired the rights to Higashino's book for a film adaptation. Initially, she was working on a project starring Saif Ali Khan, Aishwarya Rai and Fawad Khan, and to be directed by Sujoy Ghosh. However, following the success of Drishyam, Ekta Kapoor shelved the project. It was revived again in 2022 with Kareena Kapoor in the lead role, resulting in the film Jaane Jaan. The question is what has really changed now? We even had Drishyam 2 as one of the biggest hits of 2022 ensuring that audiences have not forgotten the story.
It is really intriguing because, typically, mystery thrillers don't have a long shelf life or 'repeat viewing' value. After all, if you already know the mystery, what is the incentive to watch or read? Perhaps that is the allure of Higashino's story, which is a masterful blend of elements of obsessive love with the suspense of a crime thriller. Books and their cinematic adaptations are like two siblings who tell the same story but with completely different accents and gestures. This could explain why the story has inspired many adaptations, each different from the others in character development and emotional resonance, while staying rooted to the basic plot. Each adaptation showcased the diversity of interpretations that a single story can inspire.
Before Jaane Jaan, the novel has been officially adapted into films in Japan, Korea and China, while a Hollywood version is in development. The Japanese mystery-thriller Suspect X (2008) was the first feature film adaptation. It was very successful in Japan and by far comes closest to the depiction of the characters and twists of the novel. It was followed by the Korean adaptation titled Perfect Number (2012) that took its own creative liberties. It deviated from the original characterisations, added new characters leading to a more melodramatic interpretation.
Five years later, the official Chinese adaptation (2017) entered the scene. This was arguably the weakest of them all. It altered the fundamental character traits of two lead characters but felt like a patchwork of good scenes borrowed from the earlier two films. While these producers from three different countries officially acquired the rights to adapt Keigo Higashino's novel, an Indian producer decided to get loosely inspired by it. The 2019 Tamil thriller Kolaigaran was not directly taken from Higashino's novel but bore striking resemblances to its Korean adaptation Perfect Number (2012). All the adaptations including Kolaigaran were successful.
Sujoy Ghosh certainly faces a challenging task, and it is evident from the trailer that he is making significant alterations to the original story. The most notable change is that the story is told from the perspective of the female protagonist (Kareena Kapoor). In the book (and the previous adaptations), the narrative is seen through the eyes of the math teacher (neighbour) helping the woman who has committed a murder in self-defence. Also, the cover-up in the book depended on sharp mathematical thinking but all the film adaptations failed to highlight it. Jaane Jaan is now delving into this aspect, featuring Jaideep Ahlawat in the role of a talented mathematician. Lastly, it is also possible that the Indian adaptation may have a different murderer altogether.
A successful adaptation is a delicate balance of creative interpretation and reverence for the source material. It preserves the core essence of the original work while acknowledging the distinct strengths and constraints of the medium in which it is reimagined. In Bollywood, we have witnessed a handful of commendable adaptations alongside numerous disappointing ones. With Jaane Jaan, it appears Sujoy Ghosh has captured the right atmosphere and some brilliant actors. Expect some cinematic firecrackers!