A sumptuously choreographed film, confirming Anurag Basu’s stature as the rare mainstream Indian filmmaker who believes in visuals over verbose dialogue
What stands out immediately and continues to stay with you much after the film is over, is director Anurag Basu’s audacious and breathtakingly original vision of what cinema could be, for a mainstream Hindi film.
Jagga Jasoos is a brilliant palette of colors, music, poetry and performance, resulting in one of the most original and authentic pieces of movie making we have seen in a long, long time. It is full of wit and wisdom, even having the cheek to justify why the film becomes a musical – the hero stutters, and so his mentor tells him that he must sing instead of talking. It will help him speak without faltering. From there on, prose gives way to poetry, lines become limericks, drama is reductive, and song and dance dominate the mise-en-scene. Imagine a full length Bollywood feature that shares its spirit with the classic Hollywood musicals of the 50s and 60s. What joy!
There is a plot. Jagga is an orphan with remarkable deduction abilities. He seeks to find his adopted father. In doing so, he stumbles on a mumbo jumbo of a plot involving two headed villains and international arms dealers. He is aided by an exceedingly pretty but bumbling sidekick and a series of unfortunately fortunate events that paddle the film over potentially patchy waters. A convoluted story that could have been farcical had it followed conventional execution instead becomes whimsical (in a good way, be assured), lifted by the choice of its treatment to becoming entirely different kind of film.
This is a difficult, complex film to pull off. Right from scripting to dialogue writing to performances to camera work to choreography to editing, everything has to work seamlessly. The slightest weak link can become easily exposed in a film of this nature. That this happens not very often is immense credit to Basu and his cast and crew, and to the grand vision that drove them to make a film like this.
Ranbir redeems himself after a not-so-successful run at the movies with a mad-cap, pitch perfect performance. This is the kind of expressive character that he seems to relish, for it sets him considerably apart from his peers. He plays an orphan and an amateur detective, whose book shelves house Feluda and Holmes for good measure. It is hard to imagine any other actor doing what he does seemingly effortlessly, and for that reason itself it is such a great performance to watch. Katrina Kaif may not be as natural, but she is a wonderful comrade to his Jagga. Saswata Chatterjee, who plays his adopted father, is equally brilliant in playing a professor whose unfortunate luck creates the tangle of mysteries in Jagga’s life.
The film took more than 3 years to make, and the frayed edges are visible – Sayani Gupta’s chopped up role, the all-too-brief and patchy VFX, and an ending that seems convoluted even by the bizarre standards that the movie follows.
But you make allowances for all of this, simply because of the exhilarating ride that is the movie. With songs that flow in and out of scenes, scene transitions and clever editing that skim over the narrative at a brisk, even speedy pace, and rich, exuberant colors that paint the tapestry of the film, Jagga Jasoos is a technical marvel in its own right.
For audiences used to a format of films in Bollywood, this *may* not be an easy film to sit through. It is with films of directors like Wes Anderson and Charlie Chaplin that Basu’s JJ shares a kinship with. If you enjoyed their films, you will love JJ. If you did not, give it a go anyway. An original piece of art is still a better watch than a tried and tested piece of commerce.
Hindi, Comedy, Color