Director: Sanjay Gupta
Cast: Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Irrfan Khan, Shabana Azmi, Jackie Shroff, Chandan Roy Sanyal, Atul Kulkarni, Siddhanth Kapoor, Priya Banerjee
The atmosphere is charged with conversations of murder, morality and crimes against kin. Talvar based on the Arushi murder case just released, the Sheena Bora murder case too is currently in the headlines. The country is really clued into the ideas. So Jazbaa and its themes of law and order, crimes against women and motherhood being sacrosanct are largely relevant. Pity then, it’s presented with such blatant use of cinematic formula. It’s unnecessarily dramatic in scenes that should’ve been subtle. It’s trying too hard to be an angry young woman’s action thriller.
Aishwarya Rai Bachchan is introduced as a wily lawyer Anuradha Verma who puts aside emotions and morals when she’s in the courtroom. She wins every case and her firm doesn’t mind hiring clients with chequered credentials. Things become very dramatic when Anuradha’s daughter is kidnapped and her captor forces Anuradha to defend a man slated for death penalty. The case in point involves the rape and murder of a young girl. So you have a mother forced to defend a guilty criminal to save her daughter. But then she has to contend with the mother of the victim, played by Shabana Azmi. And then you have the twist on the action hero with Irrfan Khan playing a heroic cop who doesn’t mind taking bribe. You have a bevy of grey characters each with skeletons in the closet. So far so good.
Things go awry when these believable characters start speaking like potboiler clichés. There are one liners you’d usually save for larger than life characters in masala movies. Irrfan’s character’s derring-do seem out of place. And then you have to contend with words like bachha girado and nangi ungliyan. It’s 2015 and using language that seemed jarring 30 years ago is not a good idea. The climax, which involves around an allegory of the immolation of Ravan on Dussera, is just terrible. The film steams up some good thrills and then throws a bucket full of sentimentality over them and douses them out.
As the film loses pace, you can see Aishwarya clutching at the straws in an honest attempt to rise above the situation. Her performance as a confident lawyer but vulnerable mother is fantastic. She looks like a million bucks. She even does a bit of good action. She’s particularly good in the scenes she shares with Shabana Azmi. But when the script asks her to be a hysterical mother, the camera and the director do no favours to supplement her efforts. Irrfan who plays a sort of wisecracking dark knight is constantly weighed down by the treatment meted out to his character. Irrfan the actor is in top fom. But his best efforts fall short of selling a horribly flawed character. There are supporting performances by Shabana Azmi, Chandan Roy Sanyal and Jackie Shroff which are all good.
Good actors in a not so good film, is a scenario all too common in Hindi cinema. Jazbaa is another addition. Sanjay Gupta has brought in all his trademark moves, the green tinge, the slow motion shots and the jumpy editing. But while the visuals look slick, the story is really all too old and the presentation feels jaded. Watch this if you must for Aishwarya Rai Bachchan who’s still in top form. Pity her comeback film doesn’t measure up to her efforts.