Based on The Devotion of Suspect X, Netflix’s Jaane Jaan tells the story of Naren, a math teacher who practices Jiu Jitsu and fancies his neighbor, Maya D’Souza. One fateful day, Maya’s ex-husband, Ajit, shows up at her doorstep, asking for money and with the intention of putting Tara in the bar dancing business. Maya panics as she doesn’t want Tara to endure everything she has faced due to Ajit, and the mother and daughter tag-team him to death. Naren hears all this and decides to help Maya and Tara get rid of all the evidence. When Karan, the investigating officer trying to find Ajit and Naren’s college friend, enters the picture, Naren helps Maya and Tara navigate these tumultuous waters until they are in the clear. I’m going to be very clear with you: Ghosh doesn’t really leave anything up to speculation. There aren’t any great twists in the film. Everything that you need to know is right up there on the screen, and these are the hallmarks of a bad murder mystery. So, instead of repeating all that, I’ll try to get into the themes and commentary that’s hopefully hidden underneath the poor storytelling and dull imagery.
Does Maya like Naren, or is she feigning affection to get his help?
The first time that we get to learn about how Maya views Naren, we see that she is kind of repulsed by the very notion of dating him. Naren isn’t a conventionally attractive man. He is an introvert. He doesn’t talk a lot. He never makes an attempt to know Maya. Instead, he just creepily listens to her everyday activities and the only time he converses with her is when he places his order at Maya’s restaurant. So, it’s perfectly reasonable for Maya to not consider her as a candidate worthy of dating. But as soon as Naren assures Maya that he can help her get rid of the evidence, she doesn’t give it a second thought and decides to let him into his life. She believes in his plans pretty blindly, and at one point, she assures Tara that they can trust Naren to set everything right.
When Naren asks Maya if her employees are aware of his frequent visits to her restaurant, Maya responds by saying that they are not only aware of his visits, but they really like him also, and so does she. This is the moment where you can start doubting Maya’s intentions because she doesn’t actually like Naren. She knows that he’s of use at the moment, and once the issue is over, she can let him off the hook. She knows that Naren is the only person who can handle Karan and his wit. That’s why she probably allows him to tag along because she knows that she can’t pull this off all on her own. Maya actually gets a chance to let Naren know that his feelings aren’t worthless, and she squanders it as well. By the end of Jaane Jaan, she finds out that Naren did love her for a very specific reason, and he genuinely did all this to help her out. But then it’s too little, too late. Maya’s arc deviates quite a lot from the original novel, thereby making her an unsympathetic mother who is, knowingly or instinctively, playing the long game to ensure her safety and that of her daughter’s. Can you blame her? Not exactly.
Is Karan’s Investigation Biased Because He Fancies Maya?
Karan is methodical and persistent when it comes to cracking his cases. He comes all the way from Mumbai to Kalimpong to nab Ajit. He finds Ajit’s body, and technically, that’s where his job ends. But as soon as he smells that something is fishy regarding the way Ajit has died, he becomes adamant about finding the perpetrator instead of simply leaving it to the local police to deal with the situation. His judgment is undoubtedly clouded due to his old friendship with Naren. He never suspects that Naren can do anything so heinous because he keeps seeing what Naren wants him to see. He doesn’t see a murderer or someone who can help with a murder. He sees his old friend and competitor; that’s it. What’s also clear is that Karan’s judgment is clouded by his lustful sentiments towards Maya. I don’t want to get too technical about the voyeuristic and objectionable writing and direction. So, I’ll just stick to the character writing.
Going by how Karan talks to himself about staying in line after seeing Maya getting dressed, it seems like he has a habit of getting involved with his suspects, especially if they’re attractive. Karan keeps labeling Maya as the “hot suspect” to objectify her, to get a reaction out of Naren, or both. That said, what makes it abundantly evident that he is into Maya is when he reconstructs the crime scenes, and he keeps seeing himself getting intimate with Maya. Now, we know that Maya is the killer here, and Karan isn’t privy to this information. However, it’s possible that he’s searching for reasons to let her off the hook. There’s every reason for him to put Maya in jail because there are way too many loopholes in the investigation. But he chooses to go with the explanation that Naren provides because it puts him in Maya’s good books, and he gets to take out his lifelong rival. Does that make Karan’s investigation a fair one? Based on his unprofessional thoughts alone, no, I don’t think Karan’s investigation is a fair one.
Did Naren save Maya from being convicted of murder?
Naren gives a pretty elaborate and fake explanation for how he murdered Ajit. It basically boils down to this: Naren interpreted Maya’s conversations with Tara as subtle hints aimed at killing Ajit. Naren learned that Ajit was abusive toward Maya. So he tracked Ajit down, killed him, and torched his body. But he feels that he has been duped by Maya into committing this murder. That’s why he wants Karan to arrest Maya for manipulating him. However, we know that is not the true story. In an attempt to throw the authorities and Karan off the scent, Naren actually killed a homeless man and made it appear like Ajit’s death so that he could create all the alibis that Maya and Tara needed to be proven innocent. Where’s Ajit’s actual body? That’s irrelevant. The man is dead. He doesn’t matter. What matters is that, in an ideal situation, the authorities would’ve been on a perpetual manhunt because “Suspect X” doesn’t exist. That said, when Naren learns that Maya doesn’t really like him, he decides to present himself as “Suspect X” and stay in prison for the rest of his life, solving all kinds of math riddles.
At the end of Jaane Jaan, Maya gets to know that she’s the reason Naren didn’t hang himself. She knocked on his door to get the plumber’s number, and that prompted Naren to lay down the noose and give himself another chance to live. It’s his mistake that he associated the definition of living a life with Maya. However, going by the look of satisfaction on Naren’s face, it seems like he’s happy that he doesn’t need to focus on anything else but math. This deviates hugely from The Devotion of Suspect X.
In the novel, Yukawa (Karan, in the film’s case) was aware of Ishigami’s (Naren, in the film’s case) “sacrifice” of sorts. So, Yukawa told Hanaoka (Maya, in the film’s case) the truth, and she and her daughter decided to confess so that they could also serve their sentence along with Ishigami. In the movie, Maya learns about Naren’s sacrifice, but she doesn’t do anything to refute Naren’s claims. She goes back to Tara and begins a new chapter of their lives. Karan stays oblivious to Naren’s deceit. What does that mean? In the novel, the actual perpetrators and the individual who helped them got punished, and in the film, the actual perpetrators got away after committing murder while the individual who helped them stayed in jail. Does this digression make any sense? Not to me. If you think it does, feel free to share your thoughts with us.