Monday, July 17, 2017

Experiencing ‘Jagga Jasoos’: a Film Review of sorts

Ratnakar Tripathy

Let me begin by admitting that I am generally reluctant to review bad books and movies, since the idea is to quickly forget about them and move ahead in life, instead of lending them the immortality of the digital print. But this once I will crib – going out for a movie to a cinema and travelling through the dense traffic make you feel like a martyr already, even though unlike my adolescent days one needn’t stand in a queue for ages. Also, when you invite a friend to join you, it seems to put on you the onus of providing some decent entertainment to the companion and not ruin his day. Who knows the next time you have a similar offer, the friend may make all kinds of excuses for avoiding your disastrous company!  I feel penitent for inflicting the pain on a friend when she could have easily done without it.

‘Jagga Jasoos’ is an experiment in all variety of immature and superfluous forms, symbols and genres. It attempts to follow the comic book format, provide some exciting adventure to an eager child and also turn a stammering boy into an international hero. For some reason Anurag Basu is fixated with characters that stammer and I find this fixation rather morbid, never mind the deep symbolism. So Jagga [the orphaned stammerer Ranveer Kapoor] is instructed by an adoptive father that he can sing his way out of his muteness. The therapeutic strategy of course turns the movie into a full-fledged musical, unlike the common run of Hindi movies that are half or quarter musical. As a result we get some really bad recitation and singing from Jagga, a record low for Pritam, one of my favourite music composers.

It didn’t help that my neighbours had begun grumbling within half an after the film started. After all, no one visits the cinema just to sing the national anthem, as is the requirement these days! A raucous child nearby broke into hysterical laugh every time Basu touched a new low with his improvised turns and twists in the story. The lady next to me was soon busily texting on her phone, her instrument glowing boldly in the dark and I was transfixed at the very idea till I noticed another couple on the other side was doing the same. They had all given up on the movie rather early into the tale and unlike me were sufficiently resigned to their fates for the next three hours. They all munched popcorn of course with completely undivided attention.

The film takes a series of puzzles and murder mysteries that bloat in scale, starting from a local homicide to the grandly global level. Various folk dances, mask shows, spectacles of the most banal sort pass before you – after a while you can make little sense and get reduced to sheer qualia – colours, sounds and inexplicably raw sensations had in a state of coma, except an occasional nudge from the fidgety friend assures you that you are wide awake. Basu in brief has made a puerile film that makes you feel cheated for all its pretentious novelty. Indeed, I am now determined to avoid all his future offerings, if indeed he manages to get another stab at it. If I was a producer, I would erase him from my memory forever, although Ranvir Kapoor, one of the producers of the film and according to me one of the most talented actors in Bollywood today, may just go running back to him, seeking further punishment.

Jagga Jasoos reminded me so much of a moment I had years ago – I was dining with my family at a supposedly south Indian restaurant and had ordered dosas for all of us. Two bites into the dosa and my wide-eyed wife exclaimed in sincere astonishment ‘how can you make such a bad dosa’ more in fascination than disgust. I went through many such moments watching ‘Jagga Jasoos’.  

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