Nachiappan (Nassar) is a rich Indian restaurateur in Los Angeles, United States. His twin sons, Vishwanathan and Ramamoorthy (both played by Prashanth), are senior medical students who help him out in the evenings alongside the restaurant's chief cook, Juno (Senthil). One evening, Vishwanathan goes to the airport to check on the family's supply concession and sees that some fellow Indians from Tamilnadu – Madhumitha (Aishwarya Rai), her brother Madhesh (Raju Sundaram), and their grandmother Krishnaveny (Lakshmi) – have difficulty with an address. He pitches in to help and learns that they just flew in from India so that Krishnaveny can undergo a crucial surgery to remove her brain tumor.
Later at the hospital, Vishwanathan (who is an intern at the same hospital) visits Krishnaveny's room after the operation, and notices she has been operated on the wrong side of her brain. Vishwanathan appeals aggressively to the doctors and has the error corrected by another surgery and then spearheads an angry fight for compensation. The hospital compensates $2 million to avoid a court case. Viswanathan's drastic measures win the respect and love of Madhumitha and her family.
When Krishnaveny realises that Vishwanathan and Madhumitha have fallen in love, she extends the family's stay in the United States and takes a liking to Vishwanathan's good nature. However, Nachiappan objects to the budding romance and wants his sons to marry identical twins because he himself has an identical twin brother, Pechiappan (Nassar) who has slow memory. They both had married for love in their youth, but are now estranged because Pechiappan's wife Sundaramba (Raadhika Sarathkumar) showed such tyrannical behaviour towards Nachiappan's pregnant wife Meiyaththa (Geetha), that the latter died delivering the twin boys.
Krishnaveny tries to solve the problem by telling Nachiappan that Madhumitha also has an identical twin, Vaishnavi. The story fabricated by Krishnaveny is that Vaishnavi has been brought up in an orthodox Brahmin household. At this point they ring in Madhumitha's alter ego, contrasting Madhumitha with a very demure, typically traditional Indian version. Nachiappan falls for the act and visits India along with his sons to meet Vaishnavi, unaware that Vaishnavi and Madhumitha are the same person. Meanwhile, Pechiappan arrives to a warm welcome by his brother, but later attempts suicide. Nachiappan then rescues him and comes to hear of his sad story and comes up with a plan. Accordingly, Nachiappan and Pechiappan switch places. Nachiappan goes to his brother's wife and impersonates her husband to convince and reunite with her through his sons' (Visu and Ramu) marriage plan talks; he succeeds. Pechiappan impersonates his brother towards his nephews. Vishwanathan then meanwhile, discovers that Vaishnavi is Madhumitha and she was impersonating Vaishnavi. Enraged, he immediately leaves Madhumitha's household along with his family, but Ramamoorthy persuades his father to have Madhumitha and Vishwanathan married. Though not knowing, it was not his father he talked critically about his uncle who was right there impersonating. That made him guilty. He decided to have Vishwanathan married to Madhumitha. When Nachiappan realises that Madhumitha does not have a twin, he goes and stops the wedding. There they figure out that the brothers impersonated each other as well to get along. Nachiappan's brother Pechiappan's wife (Sundaramba) persuades Nachiappan to have them married because Madhumitha did the same thing the brothers did. Eventually, Visu and Madhu get married followed by a grand dinner reception specially given by Madhesh.Prashanth as Vishwanathan and RamamoorthyAishwarya Rai as Madhumitha and "Vaishnavi"Nassar as Nachiappan and Pechiappan RajamaniLakshmi as KrishnavenyRaju Sundaram as MadheshRaadhika as SundarambaSenthil as JunoS. V. Shekhar as Vellaiappan, Madhumitha's fatherJanaki Sabesh as Madhumitha's motherGeetha as MeiyaththaS. N. Lakshmi as Meiyaththa's motherGandhimathi as Visalakshi
The entire production of the film took about a year and a half to be completed and released. jeans, unlike Shankar's other films, was the first to be shot outside of India for major portions of the film. The producers of the film were Ashok Amritraj, Michael Soloman and Murali Manohar, whom all made their Tamil film debuts with Jeans respectively. Amritraj did not work on any Tamil film afterwards. The film reunited Shankar with his award-winning technical crew from his previous film Indian, whilst the cast was finalised by him after he had finalised the story.
A difference of opinion exists regarding how the film got its name. According to Amritraj, the title Jeans was selected due to being a homophone of "genes", and "seem[ed] very appropriate to the movie". However, the magazine Rashtriya Sahara stated that Genes was the film's initial title considered by Shankar because the film had Prashant and Nasser playing dual roles each, adding, "birth of twins is governed by the behaviour of genes".
The film's launch was held at the AVM Studios in Vadapalani, Chennai in December 1996. The Jeans invitation was printed, wrapped in Jeans cloth and was hand delivered by Shankar to his close colleagues and friends in Chennai, which included prominent actors in the Tamil filmdom. The cast and crew of the film wore their favourite pair of blue jeans to the launch, as per request from the producers.
The original actor considered for the dual roles of Vishwanathan and Ramamoorthy was Abbas, who rejected the project citing that his dates were booked for the full year of 1997. The second choice for the lead role, Ajith Kumar, also opted out due to call sheet problems. The role eventually went to Prashanth, who sacrificed seven films in the process, and chose to work exclusively on the project during the period. Aishwarya Rai, a former Miss World 1994, was the original choice for the roles of Madhumitha and Vaishnavi and collaborated with Shankar after she had been unable to work with him in his previous venture Indian. Rai's voice was dubbed by Savitha Reddy. The supporting cast included Senthil, Nassar and Raju Sundaram, with the latter making his debut as an actor. Prominent supporting actresses Lakshmi and Geetha were signed up for the film, whilst Radhika agreed to appear in a guest appearance. Another supporting role was taken by S. Ve. Sekhar after playback singer S. P. Balasubrahmanyam opted out of the role. Shankar wanted Goundamani to appear in a dual role, but due to the actor's unavailability, the genre of the film was changed from comedy to romance.
The other substitution in the project involved the cinematographer. Despite reports that Shankar would again sign on Jeeva, whom he had worked with in Kadhalan, Gentleman and Indian, Santhosh Sivan was announced as the cinematographer for the film. Though between the time of the announcement and the finishing stages of the film, cinematographer Ashok Kumar was publicised as the official cinematographer for the film. In mid-1997, film organisation FEFSI struck and in the midst of this, the film's art director Thotta Tharani, a FEFSI supporter, refused to sacrifice his position in FEFSI and stopped working in Jeans. Without much choice, Shankar signed a newcomer Bala to take over the set design and art work for the film. The film's art direction is credited with both Thotta Tharani and Bala. S. T. Venky was signed up to deal with the special-effects in the film, with Jeans. The film also was assisted in graphics effects created by Pentafour Company.
The initial scenes of the Rajamani family's catering company was filmed in Las Vegas, whilst other scenes were shot in California at the Universal Studios, who usually do not grant permission for foreign films to conduct shooting there. However, with influence from the film's producer Ashok Amritraj they were able to obtain special permission to film a few scenes inside. Besides the King Kong set, Jeans was also shot in the "simulated earthquake experience" sets. The filming in Los Angeles received much publicity as well as the filming at the Grand Canyon in Arizona. Other Jeans shooting locations in the United States of America included the Valley of Fire, Manhattan Beach, Malibu Lake and many scenic spots throughout California. The song Columbus was picturised at the shores of Venice Beach, California with some foreign male and female dancers. Shankar also filmed in New Jersey and New York City at the World Trade Center when co-producer Michael Salomon and his wife, Luciana Paluzzi visited the sets of Jeans.
After a 45-day schedule in the United States, Shankar and the team returned to India to film a couple of scenes in the climax. The team then visited several other countries to picturise the song Poovukkul, with featured scenes with seven prominent buildings in the world, dubbing Aishwarya Rai as the "eighth wonder of the world". Shankar admitted that due to no real list being present, thought had been put into which wonders were selected. The team made a thirty-day trip around the world stopping to can scenes at the Leaning Tower of Pisa, the Empire State Building, the Great Wall of China, the Taj Mahal, the Egyptian pyramids, the Roman Colosseum and the Eiffel Tower. During the shooting in Paris, Diana, Princess of Wales had died and shooting was delayed as a result of her death. Three weeks prior to the release of the film, on 1 April 1998 a screening was held labelled the Making of Jeans with prominent personalities invited, however the short film showed the real manufacture of jeans. The prank was claimed by Shankar and his crew who utilised an April Fools joke.
Jeans was released worldwide on 24 April 1998. With 240 prints, the films holds the 1998 record for a Tamil film. Upon release the film was subsequently dubbed into two languages, Telugu and Hindi. The film completed 100 days of screening in the theatres in the state of Tamil Nadu. At the Mumbai box office, it performed poorly. The film was again screened in 2005 at SAE College, T. Nagar.
Rajitha, a reviewer from Rediff, praised the characters of Prashanth, Aishwarya Rai and Nassar as "ever dependable", whilst singling out praise for Radhika whom she describes that " with her startling cameo, sweeps the acting honours". The reviewer praised the technical crew describing Venky's FX as a "virtual reality", Ashok Kumar's cinematography as "throughout and outstanding", Raju Sundaram's choreography as "memorable" and A. R. Rahman's score as "entirely hummable". Shankar's directorial attributes were described to be to a "perfect flow of narrative and a penchant for demanding and getting perfection out of every element of his cast and crew" and that the film was an "easy fit". The Indian Express called the film a "hilarious comedy" and drew significant praise to the performance of Aishwarya Rai and the music of Rahman. Indolink rated the film 3.5 stars and said, "Jeans is a great family entertainer with no violence or intimate scenes. But do bear in mind that the movie is almost 3 hours long (not that you feel the length). But do ensure that you watch it in a cinema with "dts" facility." In contrast, Deccan Herald described the film as a "colossal waste", criticising Shankar's story and direction and the performances of Prashanth and Lakshmi.
Jeans was nominated by India as its entry for the Best Foreign Language Film for the Academy Awards in 1998, but did not make the final shortlist. The decision to submit the film met with heavy ridicule as it was seen as a "populist popcorn entertainer". Sudhir Srinivasan, writing for The Hindu Thread in 2016, also disliked the decision to submit Jeans. The film won four Tamil Nadu State Film Awards: Best Comedian (Senthil), Best Female Playback Singer (Nithyasree Mahadevan), Best Choreographer (Raju Sundaram) and Best Costume Designer (Kasi). It also won a Filmfare Award for Best Music for A. R. Rahman, and the National Film Award for Best Special Effects.
The soundtrack of Jeans was composed by A. R. Rahman, with lyrics by Vairamuthu. The audio launch took place in March 1998. To make the audio cassettes more "elegant and memorable", cassette store owners were told to wrap the cassettes in jeans clothing before giving them to customers.
In November 2013, Prashanth announced that he had registered the title Jeans 2 and was completing the pre-production works of a sequel to the 1998 film. The film was set to be directed and produced by Prashanth's father Thiagarajan, who revealed that production would begin in May 2014 and that they were trying to bring members of the original team back for the venture. In January 2014, Ashok Amritraj stated that he was not involved in the sequel and questioned the viability of the project, citing that he did not believe that Prashanth and his father had the rights to make a sequel. In February 2016, Prashanth reaffirmed that the sequel was in development.