We usually don’t like to see our favorite books adapted to the screen because we are possessive of the stories that we like. Perhaps that is why we initially abhorred the news of Keigo Higashimo’s book, The Devotion of Suspect X, being adapted into a Netflix movie called Jaane Jaan. But then we saw the star cast of it, and our hopes perked up a little. It also helped that it was directed by Sujoy Ghosh, who has a penchant for writing about women who will never accept helplessness as a problem. While that is far from the mysterious Yasuko of the book, it promises to be a good film for us regardless.
The point is that there had to be some changes when the story transitioned from the book to the movie. We were expecting that, but to our pleasant surprise, other than some minor changes, the movie stayed true to its source material. The origin story of Maya D’Souza, who is named Yasuko in the book, is different. Yasuko was already a hostess at a bar when she met her husband, Shinji Togashi, whose counterpart is Ajit Mhatre in Jaane Jaan. In the movie, Tara was Maya and Ajit’s daughter, but in the book, Shinji was Misato’s stepfather. Shinji wasn’t a police officer but a car salesman, and unlike the movie, he hadn’t forced his wife into the job. Yasuko had to go back to it when Shinji lost his job and started drinking heavily. However, the implied physical abuse and the fact about stealing Yasuko’s (Maya) money are true.
In Jaane Jaan, Maya stole Rs 1.5 million from him and escaped 15 years ago. In The Devotion of Suspect X, Yasuko did no such thing. She divorced Shinji five years before, and he continued to be a part of their lives by harassing her for money. That is why Yasuko had to move, and that is when he stopped seeing them. In the book, it had been a year since she had started working in the new place. We don’t believe it was specified in the movie how long ago Maya had moved to Kalimpong for her job and when she had met Naren, her math-teaching neighbor. In the movie, Tara had no idea about her father, and Ajit came to know about her only when he came looking for Maya.
In the book, Misato is aware of Shinji, and that is why it makes more sense why she attacked him first. According to the events of the book, Shinji had just delivered a threat and was leaving the apartment, which is when Misato rushed out and hit him on the head. That is because she was scared of him and what he would do. In Jaane Jaan, we have to assume that Tara had an idea about her father from whatever her mother may have told her at some point. Ajit was acting like he wanted to take Tara away right then and there, which is why she got scared and attacked him. Everything else is pretty much the same, but the details are more polished in the book, as expected.
Another peculiar difference is that the second time Naren knocks on Maya’s door after Ajit’s death, was a phone call in the book; secondly, when Maya tells him that she met Ajit at a place where couples often went, Naren says that meant that there wouldn’t be any witnesses. In the book, however, Yasuko and Shinji had gone to a family restaurant, which is why there would be witnesses, giving rise to the need to change the date of the murder as Naren and Ishigami did. We bet the writers of the film did not realize this plot hole.
Another fact is that in the book, the discovery of the body led to the case, and eventually, Yasuko, unlike in the movie, where Ajit was missing first, and later, Maya became a suspect when his charred body was found. There are other details like this that have been changed. For example, when Karan asks Maya the first time about Ajit, she denies knowing him and only tells him the truth the second time. There is no such lag in the book. The first time Kusanagi meets her, he knows who she is, and she admits that she was Shinji’s wife.
The movie really missed out on minute details like this. Another example would be that while both the book and the movie have Maya and Yasuko checking the calendar, the book gives us the conversation that led to her bringing that out. It felt a lot more organic in the book, and we noticed this difference because it felt a little random when we saw the exact same thing in the movie. Another thing is that Ishigami regretted lying to the detectives that he did not go to Yasuko’s cafe often. That was the one lie that had been his mistake and caused everything to come undone. We wish there had been a mention of that regret in Jaane Jaan as well. To think that the duo would have gotten away with it all if only he had gotten that one particular thing right.
But now we come to the biggest difference between Jaane Jaan and The Devotion of Suspect X, which is the character of Karan Anand. He is a combination of Kusanagi and Manabu Yukawa, who is also called Detective Galileo and is the brain behind solving the mysteries written by Keigo Higashimo. Kusanagi was the one who carried out the initial interrogation, and Manabu came in later. It was Manabu who was Ishigami’s classmate.
Remember how the case started unraveling for Karan after he came to know that Naren probably liked Maya? It was Manabu who caught onto that when he was taking a walk with Ishigami, his longtime acquaintance and friend, and he said pretty much the same thing to Manabu, as Naren had said to Karan, about him maintaining his looks. This was important because it was uncharacteristic of Ishigami and Naren. In the book, this was the moment Ishigami became a suspect for Manabu, but it took a while longer in the movie. Additionally, Yasuko has a suitor in the book and it is not Kusanagi. It is someone by the name of Kudo, who even proposes marriage to her.
One other scene that makes sense in the movie only if you have read the book is the ‘algebra in geometry’ but. It is Manabu who brings that up to Kusanagi, while explaining how Ishigami committed the murder. Finally, while Jaane Jaan ended on a cleaner note, the book showed that Misato struggled with her part in Shinji’s death and she attempts suicide because of it. By this time, Yasuko knows what Ishigami has done because Manabo believed it right for her to know just how much Ishigami loved her. At the end of the book, Yasuko turns herself in to the police, to the utter grief of Ishigami.
The fact is that for a plot like this, the details and their explanation are what create the magic. The Devotion of Suspect X had that, while Jaane Jaan really watered it down. If only it had at least been a three-part series, it would have been able to accomplish much more. At the end of the book, we know why it is named after the ‘devotion’ of a man, whereas the movie is named after a badly auto-tuned song. This movie was a good effort, but it is the book that is the real deal, and that is what we want everyone to read.