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Ram Jaane was released in 1995 and is a Bollywood (Hindi language) film starring Shah Rukh Khan (SRK), Juhi Chawla and Vivek Mushran.
An orphan growing up on the streets asks a priest what his name is, the priest responds with "Ram Jaane" (meaning "God knows") so the child takes that as his name from that day onwards. Ram (SRK) and Murli (Mushran) are best buddies raised on the streets, whilst Murli turns out good and decent; Ram Jaane becomes a fairly wealthy gangster. Ram loves neighbourhood girl Bela (Chawla) from childhood although she doesn't return his feelings. Ram is in and out of prison until adulthood making a lifelong enemy of the corrupt Inspector Chewte, and eventually he comes out of prison after a 4 year stretch, joining his old friend Murli who runs a home for homeless children. The teenagers at the home seem to think Ram Jaane is really cool and he starts to get them involved in shady business. At the home Ram is reunited with his childhood sweetheart Bela who helps Murli run the place; except she seems to only have eyes for Murli but they both want Ram to go straight. Can Ram ever lead a straight life and will his love for Bela ever be returned?
This is one of Shah Rukh Khan's (SRK) earlier films and he excelled at playing these roles back then, sort of an anti-hero, in this particular role with somewhat maniacal tendencies! The story reminded me in places of Slumdog Millionaire. Kids brought up in the slums turning to crime, adults taking advantage of them, etc. Saying that, I understand this film is actually a remake of a 1938 film "Angels with Dirty Faces" starring James Cagney. As I haven't seen that particular film, I can't make any comparisons personally.
The film is full of violence and corruption and hardship, it's not an easy watch but SRK makes the most of his role as volatile young man who fights against poverty from a young age but not in the most orthodox manner, becoming a thug to earn money whilst his best friend Murli makes good, opening up an orphanage and trying to just do good with his life, hoping against hope he can make his childhood friend also lead a decent life. The difference in the characters is amazing, with Murli ready to give up even the love of his life to try to get Ram to change his ways and Ram seemingly unable to control his temper and not even hesitating to take people's lives who cross him. Mushran and SRK work well together on screen, one calm and humble, the latter crazed and arrogantly ambitious. I didn't think much of Juhi Chawla's character, she just seemed to be there to provide eye candy; her character wasn't explored in much depth.
One of the things I found extremely irritating during the film was the excessive use of background music, in some cases so loud that it overshadowed the dialogue so it was hard to understand what was going on. As Hindi doesn't come naturally to me I have to listen very carefully (and no subtitles were available) and this is pretty tough to do with so much loud background music.
The villains (and there were plenty of them in this film) didn't seem to be do a single scene without seeming like pantomime villains and had some highly amusing outfits. One villain turned up to see another one wearing a pink shirt, red trousers and light blue jacket; he looked like one big candy bar (then again his nickname in the film is Technicolour)! The guy he visits has a bunch of henchmen wearing dark pink tunic and trousers and black waistcoats. Not sure how they were supposed to look threatening as they looked like they were ready to burst into a song and dance routine! Later Technicolour wears a bright blue shirt with red jacket and even later he's wearing a yellow shirt, blue jacket and red trousers. In yet another scene he wears a bright green shirt, blue trousers and bright orange jacket! I really wasn't sure what the wardrobe department was thinking when dressing the thugs, none of them looked remotely "cool" or "threatening" and added to that our "hero" Ram Jaane seems to mostly wear a suit but without a shirt underneath!
I think watching this film some might think that SRK was overacting as he seemed a bit too over the top with his aggression in some scenes but everything is all cleared up nicely at the end of the film. Having read the synopsis about "Angels with Dirty Faces" there were several notable differences in the plot (including one quite notable one at the end of the film) and several scenes which seemed identical. I found myself wanting to look up the James Cagney original to see if I found it more entertaining - I have a feeling I will!
Amongst the many songs which left my memory moments after they ended there was a rather irritating "disco" type song called "Pump up the Bhangra" which made me cringe. I don't recall hearing any of the songs from the film before and wouldn't recognise them even if I heard them again, not even the "Pump up the Bhangra" song!
I can't really say whether I liked or disliked this film. There seemed to be no let up of pace from start to finish which is hard going for a film lasting 2 hours 40 minutes. I'll settle for a 3 out of 5 and am sitting on the fence as to whether I'd recommend it to viewers or not.
Starring: Shah Rukh Khan, Juhi Chawla, Vivek Mushran, Pankaj Kapur, Gulshan Grover, Deven Verma
Release date: 1995
Director: Rajiv Mehra
Producer: Paryesh C Mehra
Cinematography: S Pappu
Story/Screenplay/Dialogue: Vinay Shukla
Music: Anu Malik
Lyrics: Anand Bakshi
Playback singers: Udit Narayan, Sonu Nigan, Alka Yagnik, Bali Brahmbhatt, Abhijeet, Anuparna, Sadhana Sargam
Duration: 160 minutes