By Ishan Marvel for Youth Ki Awaaz:
‘Jazbaa’ begins with the typical Bollywood courtroom scene that hasn’t evolved much since the 90s. Forced tension, theatric gestures, an all-too-indulgent judge, and rival lawyers throwing load after load of passionate rhetoric, along with frequent ‘Objections’. Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, who was last seen in the beautiful Guzaarish five years ago, plays top criminal lawyer Anuradha Verma. She spends most of the film in a plain black outfit, red-eyed and crying, or screaming, or running in slow-motion. Rest of the space is taken by her school friend who secretly loves her to this day, maverick Inspector Yohaan played by Irrfan Khan—a thorough badass with an inexhaustible penchant for witticisms; something that the audience at Liberty cinema amply appreciated with on-cue whistles and applause, while gorging on 60-buck popcorn and soft drinks (both large).
Yes, another movie where Irrfan plays an anti-hero cop, flailing his arms against a corrupt system, with a core of mush hiding beneath a gruff exterior (embodied by his neutral-yet-expressive voice, and the drunk-froggish eyes) —right after Talvar. However, ‘Jazbaa’ is not ‘Talvar’, and not even Irrfan’s presence and his “Amitabh Bachchan look aur tewar” can save the film. Although ‘Jazbaa’ is fast-paced, like the action-thriller it’s supposed to be, the editing is shoddy. There are times when the switches are too abrupt between situations, and on the other hand, there are sequences that either serve no purpose in the film, or else, go on and on and on. Like when Anuradha Verma first realizes that her daughter Sanaya is missing after a school race. Frantic, she screams while the camera keeps revolving around her. Meanwhile, the crowd thins out after the prize distribution until Verma is left all alone, and she’s still at the spot, screaming “Sanaaayaaaaa”.
All in all, Jazbaa’could, and should have been about half an hour shorter. And about the cinematography, I’m just going to say it: What’s with the green-blue-orange tinge — particularly stark during the cut-scenes showing Mumbai cityscapes — seriously, what’s the trip? For a while, I actually thought that there was something wrong with the screen, like it sometimes used to happen with the old tube televisions.
If there’s one thing that makes ‘Jazbaa’ somewhat watchable is Kamlesh Pandey’s populist dialogue-writing; specifically, Yohaan’s (Irrfan Khan) one-liners. Sample:
• Abey main khud langar pe khada hoon, tere liye kahaan se dawaat lagaoon?(When I’m waiting for a handout for food, how will I get you a feast?)
• Yeh case gutter banta jaa raha hai—pata nahin is mein kya-kya nikalega (This case is becoming like a gutter, who knows what else will come out of it).
• Mohabbat hai, isiliye baahar hai—zidd hoti toh ab tak baahon mein hoti (It’s because this is love that she’s still outside, had it been stubbornness, she would be in my arms)
Amid all of this is the surprise package of Shabana Azmi as professor Garima, another wronged mother, and an epitome of grace with her saris and compassionate eyes. Other than that, Atul Kulkarni’s talent is woefully under-utilized, while Jackie Shroff is good in his short role. Rest of the supporting cast is satisfactory.
At the centre of Jazbaa is the moral dilemma, of just how far can you go for the sake of your child: Be it one mother’s predicament of getting back her abducted daughter by defending a criminal in court, or the other’s quest to get her daughter’s rapist and murderer punished at any cost. The plot at the end of it, after all the drama, seems ill-conceived. As if the film-maker first saw newspaper statistics on crime against women and decided to make a film about it, before figuring out the rest. Consequently, ‘Jazbaa’ repeatedly invokes women’s rights and takes a strong and much-needed stance against social-slut-shaming. The climax contains a Raavan-burning trope—he abducted Sita, remember?
So that’s what director Sanjay Gupta—of ‘Kaante’ and ‘Zinda’ fame—brings this time. And this time—after ripping off ‘Reservoir Dogs’ and ‘Old Boy’ in the above-mentioned films—it’s an official remake of ‘Seven Days’. So instead of ‘Jazbaa’, you might want to watch the Korean original, because it probably achieved what ‘Jazbaa’ hopelessly tries to—that is, be a taut and slick action-thriller that’d leave the viewers reeling down its hurtling narrative.