Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar (JJWS), this iconic 90s film, the original school of cool made winning accessible, it made heroism probable, it made life filmable and most of all, it humanised music and dance as more than just a deftly, professionally choreographed skill. After all, cinema is found in the intersection of perspective and time, JJWS is this and much more.
Well, first things first, there is no other movie I can think of that showcases Archies comics come to life than JJWS. For who can be a better Betty than Ayesha Jhulka, better Veronica than Pooja Bedi and better Archie than Aamir Khan (Sanjay) and then there is his whole gang. All this because there is so much talk of The Archies being directed by Zoya Akhtar and we also saw a bit of the Riverdale come to life in Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, I believe JJWS is the original Indian version of Archies. Though many will say it is inspired by the Hollywood film Breaking Away.
Read More About Zoya Akhtar’s Archies Here
So, why am I talking about JJWS, you might wonder, well because it was released on May 22, 1992, and is 30 years old today? But, the surprising part is, that it’s still fresh, relevant and my go-to movie if I’m having a bad day. It immediately lifts me! Let me point out why even after decades, this film resonates with me:
The superhit love triangle
Who can forget Pooja Bedi’s Marilyn Monroe’s act in a red dress on top of a car, she was the ultimate Veronica, Devika in the film. Betty played by Ayesha Jhulka, Anjali in the film, was a tomboy, she was smart and simple and she helped her father in the garage, and was, of course, Sanjay’s (Archie’s) soulmate only he didn’t know it then. It’s their story that runs parallel with the main story of sports and competition that hooks you. The innocence of love-at-first-sight and romance go by the rule book, never vulgar. It’s a love triangle that finally reached its crescendo with Sanjay discovering his true calling and finding his lady love!
Good boys go nowhere!
Well, not always but in this film, Ratan (Mamik Singh) Sanjay’s elder brother is like a typical elder boy of a simple middle-class family. Brother, lover, the perfect boy to be proud of, yet it’s not him that brings glory to his family and school it’s Sanjay the school drifter, who shows that the winning streak is not necessarily found in perfection. And that everyone needs a chance and motto to succeed in the field and in life.
Rivalry at its best
JJWS is full of rivalries, between Sanjay and Shekhar (Deepak Tijori) of Rajput College. There is a rivalry between Rajput College, Queen’s College and Model College in all spheres. There is a rivalry between Sanjay and Shekhar for the affection of Devika. So, there will be rivalry between Anjali and Veronica too obviously. There is a class rivalry between rich and poor and their kids. Everything is at stake. And there are lessons to be learnt from each rivalry.
The film is shot with an innocent student’s gaze. The college rivalries seem like international feuds, the sports day race feels like an Olympic final. The infatuations feel like a do-or-die love triangle. Privilege, English and the colour black (a colour that boys from Rajput College wore) feel like the evil capitalism is waiting to swallow everything around it while the colour red (which students from Model College wore obviously) and middle-class-ness were chaste Indian. There is so much going on in JJWS that you need to keep a tab of it all.
Pehla Nasha has reached cult status as far as romantic songs in Bollywood are concerned. It is for sure the perfect first-crush, first-love anthem. No movie to date has a song that describes first crush as well as this song does. The song has so seeped into Indian pop culture that it’s not just a song anymore, it’s an emotion. All songs of JJWS are anthem worthy! ‘Yahan ke hum Sikandar’ can become a school anthem any day.
The gangs and their adda
The one thing that stood out for me was that the students of Model College, Rajput College, Xaviers and Queens College were rivals, yet all of them came to hang out at Ramlal’s Cafe. Food is a unifier don’t you think? And that’s what is shown. It’s like looking at real life, where everyone might belong to different strata of the society, yet there is a common ground, like the café- the adda sabka same hai!
This film makes me happy, innocent happy, romance happy, healthy rivalry happy, wholesome, intangible kind of happy. Can we expect this kind of happiness from Bollywood still?
The views expressed are the author’s own.