I heard from many sources that Jagga Jasoos is a must-see – some more reliable than the others. With due respect to the cleverer sources, I went for it. And was so pleasantly, so refreshingly, surprised, that I am still singing!
In the world of the me-too Bollywood potboilers, Jagga Jasoos stands out as having every ingredient of a great masala movie but fused together in a distinctly differentiated manner!
Here are 5 BIG reasons why, if you’ve not already seen it, you must go and see it.
#1 You have kids
If you have children, head to the ticket counter or one of the apps that help you book your tickets for Jagga Jasoos now. I’m not talking about infants or toddlers here, but the slightly older and smarter variety (and of course, your kids are the smartest!). The film is a story-telling experience enacted by children for the children.
Katrina Kaif is the writer of a comic book series called Jagga Jasoos and as she does a reading, the books come alive drawing us headlong into the storyline with Ranbir Kapoor as the stuttering Jagga, the clever young detective boy.
What I really liked was the fact that the music and dance extravaganza with the children does not have the kids doing the lewd gyrating and the hip swaying that most children are nowadays wont to imitate! It stays at the refreshingly innocent level of children and for that Anurag Basu gets 5 stars!
#2 You don’t have kids
Oh! You said your kids are grown up and flown the coop? Or you are too young to have kids? Or not interested? Never fear. Go see the film. It’s a lovely light-hearted evening watch. The dialogues (very few spoken ones) keep you entertained, the songs are quirky and humorous and the story keeps you going. (A bit too long, but hey, you said you don’t have kids!), Ranbir and Katrina hold fort through the musical performance extremely convincingly. The rest of the cast is just as spectacular – not many are big names in the industry but they are so real, so credible and so much part of the plot – it’s a fantasy that’s based in reality.
#3 You like good cinematography and of course great editing
I think cinematography deserves a special mention here. I don’t mean to be arrogant but I don’t watch most of the Bollywood films. In all honesty, the production values have gone up by leaps and bounds but good execution does not a good film make. Jagga Jasoos, on the other hand, is a good idea, executed extremely well. It’s superb cinematography interlocked with great editing. And when these come together seamlessly you get a spectacular result. Here’s a film where the director and cinematographer and editors – Akiv Ali and Ajay Sharma have put their heads together at the screenplay stage and mapped every frame out.
The cinematography by itself is stunning. I know Ravi Varman is a well-known name but he has clearly outdone himself or has been given the freedom to do so. Every frame in the film is as good as a well-composed photograph. Most of the landscape shots are breathtakingly beautiful – even if the landscape is barren. Each frame, with or without characters, is thoughtfully composed – and even the depth of field is thrown in and out of focus for us to draw our attention to the right things. It’s sheer brilliance. My mind immediately went back to The Grand Budapest Hotel by Wes Anderson and then I read that Wes Anderson has himself congratulated Ravi Varman on this film! (LINK BELOW) If you are into making or appreciating good movie-making, here’s a learning lesson for you. If you are into cinematography, here’s what you watch (preferably a couple of times). If you are into direction or screenplay writing, here’s how you figure out what to do and what not to. Oh yes, did I mention great cinematography?
#4 You like change
You’ve watched every Bollywood film there is. And now you’d like something different. Well, here’s the crème brulee after 6 days of curd rice! See it for how refreshingly different the plot it. To pass it off as a romantic comedy would do injustice to it. I can’t even call it a thriller. Jagga Jasoos combines all the right bits for a musical entertainer that’s refreshingly different. Even the plot is different – centered around a young orphan who stutters. Adopted by a secret agent (sort of) and later (sort of) abandoned or left to his own devices at a boarding school where he is (sort of) a student, he learns to communicate through song and develops a sleuthing habit. Jagga becomes the litte in-house school detective who solves small and big mysteries – in his own song and dance manner. The intrigue is around arms deals in the North East – specifically the Purulia arms drop of 1995, a scarcely touched or acknowledged topic. Such a welcome change from the usual Bollywood gangsters and murderers! The plot moves right across the world smoothly (sort of) and takes you across the African continent. The cinematography of the landscapes is refreshingly different – down to the narrow streets of Mombaca or the hilly roads of Manipur or scenic spaces in North east India. The dialogues are few, songs many – but some replace the dialogues very cleverly – thanks to Jagga’s innate disability. Humour comes in subtly but cleverly: like Katrina singing response to Jagga’s singing and then saying, “Par main kyoon gaa rahi hoon?” (But why am I singing?). The ‘bad luck’ Bagchi, and Katrina’s ‘badluckiness’ also add to the laughs. In the most serious circumstance there’s something to smile about! And then there’s the quirky hair style of Jagga Jasoos!
#5 You just like watching a good movie
The actors are genuine. The known faces can be counted on the fingers of one hand – allothers are genuine actors – from respective regions. Something as innocuous as a party in an apartment in Kolkata has the right cast including arty-saree-clad Bengali women and the kurta-clad men, the true Basus and Dasguptas! The village fair scene is authentic very well shot. The artists at the performance stalls genuine. The circus train credible.
One thing that quite stood out for me in this film is the utter lack of melodrama so common in most Bollywood blockbusters. The restrained acting from Ranbir and Katrina and of course Saswata Chatterjee as Bad Luck Bagchi or Tutti Footi is commendable. Even little Jagga puts in a stellar performance without the precociousness of children that age. Rajatava Datta as the Inspector who gets his phones wrong (not phone numbers, phones) gives an understated performance that’s manages to straddle the comedic with the emotional. If you want a good plot, good direction, good music and good performances all coming together to give you a great movie, book your seats now.
My Rating 4.5/5
What didn’t work
The only thing going against this is the length. Somewhere it meanders a bit too much through the narrow lanes of Mombaca and Stundi (is that right?) and the video cassette bit gets drawn on a bit too long for comfort. I am glad to hear that there was an entire Govinda sequence that has been chopped. It would have helped to make the film little tighter.
The music while good is not great! If it has 29 songs, I wish at least one or two were more memorable. Or maybe I am the wrong age group – the little boy in front of me in the theater was telling his mother which of the songs were remaining! In any case, it failed to carry me away.
Verdict: Watch? Give it a miss?
If you qualify for even four of the five reasons above, go watch the film. Ideally tonight! Oh! But you prefer the typical Bollywood masala that’s sung out at wedding sangeet parties! In that case, my clever detective brain says that this classy spectacle that even Wes Anderson has admired is surely not for you.