Story: K Ramachandra ( Sharwanand ) and S Janaki Devi ( Samantha ) are high-school sweethearts who meet at a reunion after seventeen long years. What transpires next is stuff bittersweet dreams are made of.
Review: C Prem Kumar revisits the now-famous story of 96 via its Telugu remake Jaanu. Fans of the Tamil original wondered if the same magic can even be recreated for a second time. Movie buffs speculated if Sharwanand and Samantha can reprise the now-iconic roles seared into people’s minds by Vijay Sethupathi and Trisha. The honest answer is both yes and no, Jaanu is no match to 96 and yet, the film has its own way of sneaking up to you when you least expect it and worm its way into your heart.
K Ramachandra aka Ram (Sharwanand) is a travel photographer, a lone ranger and a free spirit who has built up layers of walls over the years and formed his own bubble to live in. When he visits his hometown Visakhapatnam, the walls begin to crumble one by one as he cherishes the memories of his childhood. A school reunion is called for in Hyderabad and while he’s happy to meet his childhood friends (Saranya Pradeep, Tagubothu Ramesh, Vennela Kishore), he’s really there for his childhood sweetheart S Janaki Devi alias Jaanu (Samantha). And when the two inevitably meet, with the chance to spend a few hours together in the hope to salve some deep wounds that still remain, what unfolds is difficult to describe but something truly magical.
Jaanu is like a huge suitcase-full of memories that Ram cherishes. A journey that kick-starts with a class photo and ends right where it begins, except leaving two people with the closure they might not deserve but need. The romance between Ram and Jaanu is understated yet well-defined in the most beautiful of ways. Tenth-grader Ram (Sai Kiran Kumar) suddenly finds himself unable to speak in his friend Jaanu’s (Gouri G Kishan) presence, a problem that will continue for years to come. Jaanu sings like a dream (like her namesake) and is unafraid of prodding Ram to get what she wants. And just like their romance, the reason they parted ways years ago is also so frustratingly simple.
C Prem Kumar does not tell you a novel tale that will blow your mind due to how out of the world it all is. He’s much smarter than that, telling you a tale you can truly relate to in the most beautiful manner. He shows a possibly when the important what-ifs we all have in life are answered. He shows a dream that many a person might dream of. Sharwanand and Samantha deliver knockout performances, so do Sai Kiran and Gouri. The younger duo don’t just balance out the more experienced actors but also match up to them, which is a sight to see. Sharwanand and Samantha on the other hand live and breathe Ram and Jaanu, redefining them even for those who have seen 96. The quartet pulls off scenes with a conviction that’s hard to come by.
Prem Kumar is not the kind of director who will spoon-feed you sequences to ensure there’s no ‘lag’ in the tale. He in fact savours every frame of his, ably aided by cinematographer Mahendiran Jayaraju, every moment, look and silences that speak more than words do. So a cine-goer expecting the usual tropes or narrative is going to be left disappointed. The dialogues by Mirchi Kiran are good. But could they have been better? Sure. Apart from the four lead actors and the director, composer Govind Vasantha deserves special mention for revealing the soul of Jaanu with his music and BGM. The score of the film is truly remarkable.
Jaanu is a film as palatable as a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re going to get. This is not a feel-good film because it’s much heftier than that. Watch it if you’ve ever been in love, especially for the performances, the music and just give in. It’ll make you smile and cry if nothing else.