Sunday, January 9, 2011
We all know who killed Jessica, but who killed the movie?
"No One Killed Jessica" is like an arrow that has been released from the bow without the bowman having any idea about where his target lay. The result is a powerful shot which loses its steam for want of direction, pun intended.
It is not quite clear what Raj Kumar Gupta was intending to do while making this movie. Was he aiming at retelling a story which most current generation Indians are too well aware of? Or was he intending at something more ambitious - placing a mirror before the neo-rich Indian upper middle class with all its contradictions and depravities? Or was the film meant for something more commonplace - providing a new lease of life to the now-forgotten husky-voiced actress called Rani Mukherjee?
It appears that the film is a shoddy combination of all the three which brings us back to the point from which we had begun. It is not to deny the film all its strong points. The fast-paced narrative that prevents the viewer from losing interest even though everyone knows what is going to happen next. The highly believable portrayals of characters one comes across in everyday life, e.g, a corrupt, cynical policeman who has not completely lost his conscience, socialites who seek to cover up their moral cowardice with a disarming naivete and mercenaries from lower rungs of the social ladder who may be ready to give a statement in a court of law in favour of the highest bidder.
And last, but not least, the ever-evolving talent called Vidya Balan who keeps offering surprises in terms of depth and variety with every new release. There have been media reports about Jessica Lal's sister Sabrina commending the movie for having "immortalised" her deceased sibling. Though privately she might be even more thankful for the empathy that Balan manages to effortlessly arouse for the aspiring model's elder sister whose own life has been ruined by the shadow of the crime committed by a spoilt brat in a fit of rage.
Unfortunately, the good things end there. And that is certainly not good enough for a movie. The case has been quite high-profile and fresh in people's minds and so there seems to be no immediate need for a fictional account to apprise the people of what happened on that ill-fated day. Yes, the film is a partly fictional, not so much because of the lengthy disclaimers at the beginning, but more so by virtue of the modifications that may have stemmed from the need to avoid unwanted controversy.
So we have Manish Bhardwaj, the son of a politician named Pramod Bhardwaj, as the prime accused in the case. The film does away with Manu Sharma and Vinod Sharma, perhaps justifiably so, whose names had been splashed across newspapers while the outrage against the killing was in full spate. Ditto for Shayan Munshi, the small-time actor who was the eye witness in the case but allegedly developed cold feet and turned hostile during the trial. However, despite the on-screen name Vikram Jai Singh bearing little resemblance to the real-life version, the similarities are all too obvious for anybody to miss, including the alibi of not being proficient in Hindi put forward to wash hands off the statement given before the police. No wonder, there are media reports which say that he is peeved at the latest release. Similarly, Bina Ramani becomes Mallika Sehgal and yet the unflattering portrayal has reportedly left the socialite sulking, in stark contrast with her enthusiasm for watching the movie prior to its release and her reported complaints of not having received an "invitation" at a special screening.
So far, so good. Nobody would insist that people involved be named accurately even at the risk of inviting legal troubles. But the film does not fully succeed in terms of dealing with the issues it seeks to raise with due insight and sensitivity. Rani Mukherjee, with due respects to her anxieties of making a comeback, actually turns out to be an irritant. Though, honestly speaking, the failure here is more of the screenplay writer and the director than the actress herself. The banality with which the character of celebrity TV journalist Meera Gaity has been infused would make the most gullible viewer incredulous of her transformation into a crusader for justice. The dialogues delivered by her, replete with expletives, may embarrass some people and titillate others but are unlikely to create much impact as an "authentic" depiction of the way media persons talk and behave. The reason being the story is not about journalistic activism at all! A plain truth that the makers of the film seem to have forgotten mid-way.
Although the film is not bad, but it could have been much better had the director focussed on the more human and less-chronicled aspects of the story. The sequence where the murderer's high-profile politician father turns up at the victim's home to buy peace could have been given a much better treatment. But for Balan's outburst upon learning about the incident, this very poignant scene would have been one of the many forgettable sequences.
The chicken-heartedness of the elite class which refuses to cooperate in the trial despite claims of love for the deceased young lady and sympathy for her family, deserved to be shown in greater detail. It was an occasion to underscore the pitfalls of a culture of unmindful opulence which keeps creating new problems without having the capability to solve the old ones.
The film would have done better to take this opportunity to have a fresh look at the relevance of the out-of-fashion quality of moderation, which holds the key to preventing such unfortunate incidents from taking place. Because once a crime of this sort is committed, no amount of punishment to the accused can heal the wounds. After all, it was not a cold-blooded murder. It was a result of the belief that you ought to be brash in order to prove that you are powerful.