Review: Read Between The Lines To Know The Real Message Of ‘Jagga Jasoos’

Posted by Purnangshu Paul in Culture-Vulture
July 17, 2017

Spoiler Alert

The recent Anurag Basu release is not the run-of-the-mill action/thriller/drama that you are used to watching. What makes this film special is the risk that Ranbir Kapoor, along with Anurag Basu and Siddharth Roy Kapoor, have taken as producers. They put their faith in a film that provides commentary on international issues, masqueraded in a funny comic book setting.

This is the first film Basu has directed since 2012’s “Barfi”. Rightly so, because to create a magnum opus like “Jagga Jasoos”, you need time on your hands and your heart in the right place.

“Jagga Jassos” is not a film that will win the heart of film lovers worldwide. Though you might start hating it at certain points, the film manages to keep you firmly glued to your seat.

It will reveal to you the tale in bits and pieces, as and when you need to know them. It will tell you about problems in Manipur and separatist movements that are getting funded by foreign forces. It will tell you about the international arms trade and the smuggling of arms and ammunition to wage internal conflicts. It will tell you how first world sovereign countries try to keep third world and developing nations busy with their own civil wars, thus preventing them from making their country ‘great again’.

But you have to be paying attention.

The film deals with the life of Jagga (Ranbir Kapoor), his companion Shruti (Katrina Kaif), and his accidentally found father Badal Bagchi, aka ‘Tutti Futti’ (Saswata Chatterjee).

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could nab notorious criminals through Google searches? But that sounds like a fairy tale, right?

“Jagga Jasoos” is one such fairy tale, where seemingly impossible comic book-like sequences take place, performed by real life characters. The majority of the film’s dialogues are conveyed through songs. The right side of Jagga’s brain works better than his left and so to overcome his stammering, he sings.

Remember Satyajit Ray’s protagonists ‘Gupi’ and ‘Bagha’ from his iconic films “Gupi Gyne Bagha Byne” and “Hirak Rajar Deshe”? Basu has taken a plunge into the world of these two films for references. Right from the way Jagga sings and rhymes his conversations, to the point of the final conflict in ‘Shundi’, there are ample pointers that Basu has taken a lot of inspiration from Ray’s films. Along with that, the film draws inspiration from a comic book character we all love, Tintin.

However, this is nothing new when it comes to Basu. It’s not a bad thing to adapt but there are always chances of failure. However, Basu thrives every time. Be it “Murder”, “Gangster” or “Barfi”, he has always done justice to the source. Fortunately enough, he didn’t fail with “Jagga Jasoos” either.

Jagga’s story is narrated in front of a bunch of kids by Shruti at a book fair in Kolkata. The kids, whom you might feel are just add-ons, are actually anything but that. They are the future, for whom Basu has made this film.

The song “Nimbu Mirchi”, performed by the kids along with Shruti, tells you why you should not be complacent about your comfortable and cosy life while neglecting the world’s problems. It is a testament to the fact that Basu is a visionary filmmaker. In another song, “Khana Khake Daru Pi Ke Chale Gaye”, Basu has beautifully portrayed the innuendos of everyday life and the concept of mortality.

Shruti, who is a journalist, meets Jagga in Manipur where she is chasing a news story. Although the smuggling of arms and fuel that is keeping the separatist movement and militant activities alive is discussed, the film carefully avoids a commentary or solution.

This might have been done to save the film from getting an ‘A’ rating. It already suffered a ‘U/A’ rating from the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC), keeping a lot of children out of the theatres.

Thanks to the ‘sanskari’ Nihalani, this film might not reach many children, who could have grappled with – and maybe ask their parents – difficult questions related to arms smuggling. But alas, like sex education, we don’t want our children to talk about the burning questions of our times.

According to a report of Congressional Research Service by Catherine A. Theohary, USA and Russia are the largest arms exporting nations in the world. Between 2011-2014, the USA has provided 35.3% of the arms supply to developing nations in Asia, while 64.99% of the supplies in the African countries was from the USA.

Russia is another player, providing almost 52% of the total arms supply to Asian countries. These staggering figures are a reminder of why you never hear of internal civil wars in the developed nations, and why it is quite the opposite when it comes to the third world or developing countries. “Jagga Jasoos”, in a very subtle and poetic manner, hammers this point home.

It doesn’t only restrict you to Manipur or Purulia but takes you to Africa, where kids play with real guns.

All this happens under the surveillance of the international kingpin ‘Alexander Bashir’, who gives you a hint at the end of the film that Basu is hopeful for a sequel.

Ranbir Kapoor has to be credited for the brave decision he has taken as an actor to sign a film of this stature, just after Anurag Kashyap’s disastrous “Bombay Velvet”. Keeping box-office results aside, he is building quite a meaty filmography for himself, one that will be remembered in the times to come. As Jagga, Kapoor has done absolute justice to the role. He keeps us interested in this three-hour-long epic journey of an Indian Sherlock Holmes, who derives qualities from both Hergé’s Tintin and Ray’s Feluda.

Katrina, in her role as Shruti, somehow manages to be convincing.

Saswata Chatterjee is the backbone of the film. He makes you laugh, think, cry and clap with joy, thanks to the well thought out scenes in the film. However, Sourabh Shukla and Sayoni Gupta, two great actors, are wasted by both Basu and the editor (Ajay Sharma) as the narrative is too complex to fit them in.

However, the hero of “Jagga Jasoos” is undoubtedly cinematographer Ravi Verman, who has carefully illuminated every scene in the film, along with using the natural beauty of the locations in which the film has been shot. Amitabh Bhattacharya and Nilesh Mishra are the pillars of the film, penning down the lyrics of this heavily loaded musical, with the occasional ‘gyan’ in between.

Some of the problems with “Jagga Jasoos” lie in its narrative and the tiresome screenplay. The unnecessary inclusion of the clock tower murder case and the forceful romance between Jagga (a school boy played by a 34-year-old Ranbir Kapoor) and Shruti (a 25-year-old journalist played by a 33-year-old Katrina Kaif) are the biggest letdowns of the film.

During the interval, when I went out to buy some coffee, a middle-aged lady asked the man at the counter whether Ranbir would stop singing in the second half. She got a disappointing ‘no’ as an answer, but he promised a better second half, and rightly so. The second half of the film picks up but it loses some steam towards the end.

It might take another half a century for the Indian audience to understand and appreciate musicals as a genre over mind-numbing masala flicks. It may take even more time for them to view a “Jagga Jasoos” through the same lens as “La La Land” or “Into the Woods”.

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