I have not read the best-selling thriller, ‘The Devotion of Suspect X’ by the Japanese writer Keigo Higashino. It was first published in 2005. Several film versions were made in different languages as the novel became popular. It won many prizes for being one of the best thriller novels of its time.

‘Jaane Jaan’ is directed by Sujoy Ghosh who seems to be specially inclined to make sharp-edged and edge-of-the-seat thrillers. He tries to begin with thrills, and ends with a thrilling finish. However, it turns out to be much less thrilling than the sharp-edged knife it was in the beginning. ‘Jaane Jaan’ is a psychological thriller which throws up an electric drama revolving around three main characters: Maya D’Souza, Naren Vyas and Karan Anand.

The film opens with Maya D’Souza, a single mother who lives in Kalimpong with her 12-year-old daughter Tara. Maya works in a local restaurant often frequented by her strange neighbour Naren Vyas nicknamed “Teacher” as he teaches Maths at the local English medium school. He is a social recluse, though he is very good at chess, martial arts and coin tricks.

We discover that he has a keen eye for Maya, who is attractive. He frequents her restaurant everyday to collect his dinner parcel. Maya is aware of this but she does not pay attention. “Teacher” does not like anyone questioning his talent as a Maths teacher so when the principal calls him to go a bit soft in his methods, he gets angry with the boy who complained about his teaching.

The seemingly peaceful ambience of Kalimpong is deeply disturbed when suddenly, a man named Ajit Mhatre arrives out of the blue and threatens Maya D’Souza, asking her for money. He is her ex-husband who is also a cop from whom D’Souza is hiding with her daughter under a fake identity. When mother and daughter are trying to chase Ajit Mhatre away, he is suddenly killed by them, not by intention but mainly out of fear and the desire to escape.

At this point, “Teacher” steps into the scene and offers to help D’Souza not only hide the murder but also dispose of Mhatre's body. But the intelligence and the diabolic plans mainly engineered by the genius Naren Vyas are suddenly disturbed by the appearance of Karan Anand.

Anand has been transferred from Mumbai to solve Mhatre’s murder case. He is one of the best in his profession and though he finds Maya D’Souza’s attractiveness quite distracting, he does not lose focus from the job at hand. he has to find Mhatre’s corpse, zero in on D’Souza, who he is confident is the killer. he is happy about discovering his old college friend Vyas who, though of the same age, looks as old as his father.

Maya D’Souza tries to keep herself distanced from Karan Anand as much as she possibly can. She knows that he suspects her of her husband’s murder and is also attracted to her beauty and sensuality. But they do sometimes happen to connect, as expressed beautifully in the scene at the Karaoke bar where Anand pushes D’Souza to sing. She belts out, quite shakily in the beginning, the hot number from an old film “Aa na jaane jaa’ surprising herself as much as she surprises Anand and the others at the bar.

The song (from ‘Intaquam’ 1969 is a dance number performed by Helen) adds an element of mystery and romance to the situation, and also to the two characters that inhabit it. The film picks its title from this song. The Karaoke bar scene is the only touch of lightness in the entire film.

A psychological crime thriller is dominated by the motivations and emotional relationships of characters affected by the crime. The question of “whodunit” becomes secondary and sometimes rendered redundant because there is no mystery about who has committed the murder and why.

It is the “how” the perpetrator concealed the crime and how this concealment remained concealed till the end or was revealed through intelligent and relentless investigation and pursuance is important. ‘Jaane Jaan’ checks all the boxes of the conventional psychological crime thriller.

The cinematographer (Avik Mukherjee) has taken advantage of the ambience of the hill town of Kalimpong sticking more to greys and dark colours to add to the mystery of murder. This adds to the aesthetics of the film.

The ominous sounds, of the body being dragged and pulled till it stops moving, dragged across the floor, wrapped in a blanket, the bird cries from afar, the ringing of the school bell are authentic additions to the mystique element of the film. The music is haunting, mainly throwbacks on old Hindi film song hits, hitting against the small overbridges, lonely pathways, school compounds, and the interiors of the cafeteria with locals thronging it.

The film, like most psychological thrillers, is constructed more into the future, what is going to happen to the killer, how will the corpse be gotten rid of, and how will the cop in charge solve, or not, solve the mystery to nab the killer. The method of murder is neither fancy nor misleading. It is straightforward and assumes importance, as the film moves along the dark, lonely, hilly streets of the picturesque Kalimpong with its deceptive beauty.

‘Jaane Jaan’ would never have been the mesmerising, nail-biting suspense it has turned out to be minus the terrific performance of Jaideep Ahalawat as “Teacher”. I saw him first in ‘Raazi’ as the hard-nosed trainer of the young spy, and was hypnotised by his ability to create the impression of complete distance from the person he was training.

Jaideep Ahalawa is one to watch out for, and one really wishes Ghosh had fleshed out his character to offer us a peep into why he is such a mysterious introvert who cannot express his love for Maya D’Souza, but feels no guilt to dig a hole in the common door to eavesdrop into her telephone calls and exchanges with Tara.

Kareena sparkles in her OTT debut of a disturbed single mother who is anxious about her hide-out being revealed. Her revulsion at her ex-husband is clear from the way she tries to keep her distance from him, till she kills him with her daughter’s help.

Saurabh Sachdev as the merciless, cool, calculating villain Ajit Mhatre is good in his brief role, and so is Vijay Varma as the handsome young police officer Karan Anand. He is no less a talent than his old classmate Naren Vyas but one would have loved to get a peep into why Naren is so secretive and why he has aged beyond his real age. What happens to the dead body of Ajit Mhatre is never revealed till the end.

The climax is sudden, without any twist in the tale which is disappointing after the escalating moments of suspense built so carefully through the film. But do watch it and decide for yourself whether you like it or not.