Sunday, March 06, 2016

Jai Gangaajal 

Woman In Khaki

There are, of course, some ineradicable truths about small town India, but when bunged into a film with suitable enhancement, they come across as a collection of clichés.

Prakah Jha’s Gangaajal and Apaharan were also about a single cop transforming a rotten system in a small town, but they were based on real incidents, so the clichés were bearable. In his latest Jai Gangaajal, they are jarring.  Why is it that whenever there is a cop-criminal-politician face-off elections are always round the corner? How does one dramatic dialogue bring about a major transformation in a person? Why is the conflict always about evil corporates grabbing farmers’ lands? Why is there always an aspiring chief minister as the root of all evil.

What rings false amidst all the manufactured realism—actual locations, real crowds, slangy speech—is the touching faith Jha’s characters have in the Indian legal system. Does anyone really believe that a crooked politician, arrested by an incorruptible cop, will not subvert the system and get out?

Still, in the land ruled by brothers Babloo and Dabloo Pandey (Manav Kaul- Ninad Kamat), a female superintendent of police Abha Mathur (Priyanka Chopra) arrives with wide-eyed enthusiasm, hoping to uphold law and order. She probably never read the papers or watched TV if she believes that just thrashing a couple of goons will clean up the mess.

While Babloo gets facials done in his palatial mansion, his brother Dabloo rushes around with jeeps full of henchmen, trying to get villagers to sell land for the Samanta Power Project. There is the mandatory, foreign-returned activist (Rahul Bhat) fighting for the farmers’ rights, even as many commit suicide. And then some fiery-eyed revolutionary types appear, to extract vigilante justice by stringing up Pandey’s men on trees and challenging the police to record them as suicides.

Abha is surrounded by corrupt officers—after the first goon-trashing, one of them says, “You made men out of us, or would have retired impotent.”  Not surprising, the ‘mardani’ SP’s action scenes are accompanied by a loud background track, where she is compared to Goddess Kali.  More clichés, anyone?

The reptilian BN Singh, circle inspector (Jha himself in an impressive acting debut) is on Pandey’s pay roll, but a tongue-lashing by Abha and the rape-murder of a girl fighting to retain her land, make him do a complete about turn.

There are many deft touches in the film and some interesting characters, but it is constantly bogged down by its predictability.  Abha Mathur is more a tokenism than a character, because Jha is not even interested in her as a person.

Priyanka Chopra tries to work with her deglam role, but the pouting lips and sashaying walk come in the way—she doesn’t look or sound like she belongs to that milieu. Jha on the other hand, gets the bearing, accent, patois just right, giving his part a kind of aloof dignity that conveys that he has fallen into a cesspool, but is still somehow above it all. BN Singh is character to watch for, and Jha could make him/himself the hero of his next cop drama.


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