Movie Review: Jai Gangaajal

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I had a vague sort of expectation that Jai Gangaajal was the female version of Singham. Priyanka Chopra’s character would take a crime-ridden city/town by the scruff of the neck, shake it till all the baddies fell out, after being appropriately menacing and horrible of course, and finally the thankful former victims would fawn lovingly all over her. I also expected a love story, or that she would have a significant other, who would provide the softening touches to the story.

Well, you know what they say about assumptions.

Story: Abha Mathur (Priyanka Chopra) is given her first appointment as the SP of Bankipur district. She is replacing another SP, who attempted to course-correct some of the wrongs happening in the district, and in the police stations under his command. For his pains, he gets transferred.

Mathur is appointed with the implicit assumption that she will grease the wheels of the corrupt district, ensuring that all their plans go off without a hitch. They were wrong; she may be new but she takes a tough stance on crime.

The district is run by Bablu Pandey, the MLA, and his hot-headed brother, Dablu Pandey. As can be gathered from their unimaginative names, the brothers are equally unimaginative, animalistic thugs, with nary a thought for any other but themselves.

Review: Jai Gangaajal is an average movie. There are parts of it that are great, while others where it falls flat on its face.

Story: Like I said, my expectations were turned on their head with the story. I was expecting a strong female-driven plot, but Priyanka Chopra appears to be merely decorative figurehead. The real story is the metamorphosis of B N Singh, admirably played by Prakash Jha. Starting off as a corrupt cop, albeit with a little compassion, his gargantuan change of heart is palpable. An incident triggers his guilt in such a profound way, the man goes through a massive transformation. I personally loved this part of the story, although I do wish Abha Mathur had a meatier role.

Characters: B N Singh’s character was beautifully developed, with some many layers and shades. But that’s about it. Everyone else remains one-dimensional throughout, right from the top billed actress they’ve made the poster child of the movie, right to the easy-to-hate villains, who lack even the tiniest scrap of empathy. There was the character, Munna Mardani (Murli Sharma), who is slightly effeminate, although it isn’t explicitly said he is gay. His emotions for the Pandey duo are often expressed, and unfathomably tender. There is no motivation apparent in any of the characters’ back stories, and they are stereotypical to a yawn-inducing degree.

Acting: Prakash Jha stole this show. Well, to be fair, the man is the director and producer, so it isn’t technically stealing the limelight when it is yours to dish out in the first place. But he certainly does hog all of it. Priyanka Chopra is convincing, but looks altogether too pretty to be convincing otherwise. She is distractingly beautiful, which is amusingly pointed out in one of the scenes as a throwaway remark. The others don’t even bear mentioning.

What I liked: The extensive characterisation of B N Singh. Beautifully done. I also loved the bits where Mathur takes a long baton and beats the crap out of a molester. I may have cheered at that bit.

What I disliked: The lack of dimension in everyone else. Also, the brutality of some of scenes was crushing. I don’t know why rape always figures in these movies, and the short, but nauseating scene of a young girl, crying after being violated made me want to puke. There were too many loose ends, with several crimes and perpetrators’ fates left hanging. What happens to the other, more corrupt cop? What happens to B N Singh finally? Does the rape get prosecuted? What about the vigilantes? And so on.

Rating: ✩✩✩

The movie is enjoyable fare, but I wouldn’t watch it more than once.

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Office Woes #6: Ties That Bind Us

Last Friday, we had an office party. The HR team valiantly set up a laser tag tournament in the office, which was fun, and then took us all out for a buffet dinner to a hotel.

The hotel is the rather beautiful Orchid Hotel in Mumbai, near the domestic terminals of the airport. The restaurant is called Mostly Grills, a rooftop alfresco dining area with a view of the runways and the terminal buildings (also of the slums that sit cheek by jowl near the airport, but glossing over those conveniently).

It was a warm sultry night, but a light breeze kept us from being too hot. There was a dedicated bar, which was lacklustre, and a buffet which was downright awful. But the company of my crazy colleagues more than made up for those deficiencies. Although we work together day in and day out, we have so much work, we actually spend very little time actually talking. The exceptions are breakfast and lunch, and the odd snatch of conversation had when grabbing an ubiquitous cup of coffee.

Anyway, back to the party. Towards the end of the night, there were the obvious drinkers that were teetering on the edge of complete inebriation. There were those who had fallen headlong onto the other side. There were those who had a few drinks, and were idly watching the antics of the former. I fell into the last category.

Around midnight, I decided to push off home. Two of my friends gallantly decided to accompany me home, and a third soon joined in. We sat in the taxi, and were on the way back to my home when the following conversation ensued on WhatsApp:

Colleague 1 (slightly drunk, still at the restaurant): “Call ASAP!!”
*I called using WhatsApp, because I was in a hurry. No answer.”
Me: “What?”
Colleague 1: “Call me on the phone”
*Called him on the phone, only to have colleague 2 answer the call.*
Colleague 2: “Where are you?”
Me: “In the taxi. Why? What happened?”
Colleague 2: “No. WHERE are you?”
Me: *getting exasperated* “In the taxi! Why?!”
Colleague 2: “Uff. Where is the taxi?! Have you left? Are you still in the hotel? WHERE are you!?”
Me: “Oh! No, we not in the hotel. We’re already on our way.”
Colleague 2: “Aw damn! Damn you! Never mind. Fuck!”
Me: *laughing by now* What happened, for heaven’s sake? Why are you so weird?
Colleague 2: “Never mind. Fuck you. Bye.”
Me: “Wait. Give the phone to Colleague 1.”
*The phone gets passed, I think, but colleague 1 was out of it, so the call disconnected. I reverted to WhatsApp.*
Me: “What happened?”
Me: “Are you ok?”
Colleague 1: “Yeah I am okay”
Colleague 1: “Rains wanted to ask if you could accompany Smith”
Colleague 1: “*Akit”
Colleague 1: “**Amit”

This left me severely mystified, and in hysterical laughter. I dropped the issue, and forgot all about it. Colleague 1 pinged me on WhatsApp about something else, and I suddenly remembered the previous night’s conversation:

Me: “Why was Colleague 2 yelling at me from your phone last night?”
Me: “You sent me this in explanation:
Colleague 1: “Rains wanted to ask if you could accompany Smith”
Colleague 1: “He was worried about Colleague 3”
Colleague 1: 😅😅
Colleague 1: “There was no one to accompany Colleague 3 home”
Colleague 1: “And he was wasted as usual”
Me: “Before last night, I’d never spoken to the guy”
Me: “And that bright spark (Colleague 2) thought I could drop him home?”
Colleague 1: “This is what office parties are about”
Colleague 1: “Breaking the ice”
Me: “I don’t know where he lives”
Me: “Riiiiiiiight”
Me: “That’s breaking the ice”
Me: “Here, let me cart your drunken ass home. By the way, where do you live? Also, are you married?”
Colleague 1: 😂😂😂😂
Me: “(just in case I have to deal with an irate wife)”
Me: “Because nothing spells a strong marriage like accepting your alcohol soaked spouse from an unknown woman.”
Me: “In the middle if the night.”
Colleague 1: “Okay okay”
Colleague 1: “Colleague 2 obviously did not think this through”
Colleague 1: “Neither did any of us who were present”
Colleague 1: “And Colleague 3 actually left alone in a rickshaw”

Now, I am curious to see whether he has turned up in the office today. Bunch of geniuses.

Spoiler Alert

Once upon a time, it was a dream of mine to make movies. I think it stemmed from a love of stories, and also from being enthralled with them from a very young age. I was an only child, with working parents and few friends. Movies and books, with their colourful fictional characters, made me less lonely.

I have never been the go-getter type, powering through obstacles to find (if not pave) my way. My natural timidity precluded the aggression required to take that path, and I needed guidance. However, with a social structure that construed of mostly engineers, doctors, lawyers and chartered accountants, the path was far from clear. Anyway, I digress; my point is that I love stories.

I am not a good critic of stories. I cannot see tropes, patterns, or cliches. I sometimes sense, rather than see, metaphors and layers in storytelling. I enjoy lighthearted fare, even if it isn’t groundbreaking or gritty. Side note: gritty is not a trend I can understand easily. That being said, I can see certain storytelling devices, and I’ve later learned to recognise other patterns.

The reason I am waffling on about my love of stories and so on, is to explain why I detest the concept of a ‘spoiler alert’. The sheer outrage that pours forth when the climax is revealed to someone, before they’ve had a chance to experience it firsthand through the intended lens of the oeuvre’s creator. Oh what a tragedy. How will they ever recover from such a grievous wound?

I understand that a good movie director plans the way that the audience learns the story. That any work of art is carefully executed, considering the exposition minutely. Christopher Nolan’s movies spring immediately to mind, about the way he developed The Prestige or Memento. That was exquisite moviemaking. However, with the Memento, knowing about the twist at the end wouldn’t have materially changed the way I perceived the movie. It was still brilliant. The Prestige was slightly different, but since my mother has a twin, I guessed the twist early in the movie.

It is impossible to escape spoilers on the Internet. People, like me, would love to discuss how a movie or book left us feeling, and I would rather not be on the receiving end of vitriol because of it!