After being in the making for more than three years, director Anurag Basu’s ‘Jagga Jasoos’, starring Ranbir Kapoor in the titular role, hits the theatres today. Owing to being severely delayed, there was some negativity around the film but once the trailer and other promotional material kicked in, one realized that Basu and Kapoor have something special to offer to the audience. As is the case with most of Anurag Basu’s films, the promos gave us an inkling of the film being inspired from several adventure and animation films being made in the West but one thing was for sure – it was the kind of cinema that was never attempted in India.
Jagga (Ranbir Kapoor) is an orphan who meets the wounded Badal Bagchi (Saswata Chatterji) in a hospital and develops a special bond with him. They start living together as a family and share a relationship that is good as that of a father and a son. Jagga has a stammering problem and finds it difficult to speak properly. Badal teaches him a unique trick to overcome this impairment. Instead of communicating through dialogue, he advises him to sing and express himself. This works very well for Jagga who discovers that he does not face any problem in expressing himself through a song. One day, Badal encounters some men and starts running away from them. He realizes they will catch up with him eventually. So, he decides to put Jagga in a boarding school and leave. Jagga becomes a loner after Badal leaves him; the only thing that would pep him up is a VHS that Badal would send him every year on his birthday.
Anurag Basu has tried to pack in the tropes of several genres into one film. The film is a musical cum detective mystery cum coming-of-age drama. While the music serves as a narrative device, the plot of the film veers towards it being a detective mystery. A film like this should, ideally, keep you guessing and make you look for answers throughout the film before the mystery is revealed towards the end. The film does not really succeed in delivering on this account. The way Jagga solves the first case catches your attention. However, you do wish the storyline would get a little more exciting. The arrival of a character (Shruti, played by Katrina Kaif) who seem to moving around in the town with some secrets make you further invest in the film. The suspense element never reaches a point where you say ‘wow’. There is no revelation that startles you.
The film has certain political undertones to it. There is also an anti-war message that does not come across effectively. The screenplay is muddled and inconsistent, especially in the second half. But, the film is engaged as Anurag Basu’s efforts blend into different genres and Jagga and Shruti went on their misadventure and brushed past dangerous people. The film has a bunch of lovely songs put together by Pritam that you will find in the album. The rest of the songs, which Jagga and the other characters use to communicate and Pritam has composed around dialogues, blend in seamlessly with the narrative. While in the past, one has had films where all the dialogues were recited in verses, this is a musical in the true sense of the word. One had heard of the film being delayed (it released in UAE on Friday instead of Thursday) because of Basu and Pritam giving finishing touches till the last minute. There are a couple of scenes where the technical loopholes are too obvious to be overlooked. In one of the earliest scenes, Katrina Kaif’s lips and the song/musical verse she is lip-syncing to do not match. In another scene, when she cries for help, her lips move much before one hears ‘Help!’.
Ranbir Kapoor is exceptional, to say the least. He brings in the innocence of high school kid and the sharpness of a person who has the mind of a detective in equal measures. Like most of the films he stars in, one of the biggest assets of ‘Jagga Jasoos’ is his flawless performance. As per the requirement of the script, Katrina Kaif looks older to Ranbir and brings out the goofy side of Shruti quite well. Though one does wish that her character had a better graph in the film. Her performance is alright. Saurabh Shukla is good as always. It is a delight to see Saswata Chatterjee in a Hindi film after a long time. He makes the character of Badal Bagchi very endearing; his scenes with the young Jagga are heart-warming. Sayani Gupta, last seen in a small but pivotal role in ‘Jolly LLB 2’, is hardly there.
Anurag Basu must be lauded for trying to bring something to the Indian audience which they have not seen before. To a good extent, he succeeds in his attempt to make a detective mystery in the format of a musical. Along with a functional script, the format seems quite appealing. A more gripping screenplay would have definitely helped the audience warm up to the film far better. One looks forward to another filmmaker making a musical in India; the only thing one would like him to do is come armed with a better script.