No One Killed Jessica

Just before writing this, I was watching the Koffee With Karan episode with Rani Mukherjee and Vidya Balan. It wraps up a very loud and aggressive promotion for this movie that Rani and Vidya have mounted – appearing on numerous shows (reality & otherwise), on nearly every channel. The promotion had needless sexual overtones – lesbian kisses and erotic thumb-sucking – completely at odds with the serious piece of moviemaking that is No One Killed Jessica. Though it raised the profile of the movie – making it visible to a larger audience (and probably got the single-screen audiences somewhat interested in a movie without a hero), I wished it had mounted a different kind of campaign instead of the regular publicity that marks every big movie.

Promotions aside, No One Killed Jessica is another of the well-intentioned movies that do not quite become great cinema. Based on the famous Jessica Lall killing and the public outrage caused by the travesty of justice, it has a great victory-of-good-over-evil story. But unfortunately that same well-known story becomes an impediment for it because it leaves it very little scope for taking liberties with the script. Although the disclaimers claim that it is a hybrid of reality and fiction, apart from dramatizing a coupe of characters, the story sticks to the original events as much as it can

The movie is divided into two clear halves. The first half belongs to Vidya Balan, the quiet and determined sister who will not give up on her sister’s killing. Running after recalcitrant witnesses and attending tedious hearings of the case that dragged on for several years, Vidya portrays Sabrina Lall with a stoic face and steely resolve – you can just feel that she is someone who you cannot budge once she has made her mind. A role without any histrionics, somewhat diametrically opposite to Rani’s – yet I appreciated her performance far more than Rani’s

Rani Mukherjee gets the bolder role – the abuse-spewing, hard-nosed journalist who apparently loves to be described as a “bitch” (don’t ask why). Her opening scene from Kargil tells us all we need to know about which real-life character she is inspired from. Thankfully, at least she didn’t crop her hair like Preity did in Lakshya. The second half of the movie belongs to her completely – and opposed to what their promos seem to suggest, Vidya and Rani have only two scenes together in the movie. Also, Rani’s loud dialogues seem a tad over-dramatized and distract from the seriousness of the movie.

Some other smaller characters make a super impression though. Shireesh Sharma, who plays the accused Manu’s politician father, does a very interesting job as the brooding, hesitant politician instead of the obviously-upto-no-good netas portrayed in our movies. So is the police inspector in-charge of the investigation, who again has a very interesting take on the corrupt cop. Also, Manu Sharma’s mother plays a hilarious caricature of a filmi-mom, with a single dialogue through out “Dekhiye ji, mere Monu ko kuch nahi hona chahiye”.

Director Raj Kumar Gupta shows some of his Aamir brilliance in No One Killed Jessica, but unfortunately cannot match the same taut tension of his debut movie. It is still a very solid movie, where your anticipation is heightened before many pivotal events – but somehow, he never manages to land a cinematic knockout blow. Even the climactic scene between Rani and Vidya turns out to be a damp squib. It is worth a watch to see how blatantly power can be abused in our country, and maybe give us apathetic young people a little wakeup call, but not for its cinematic genius.

3 star

P.S. - The Dilli track sounds super awesome in the multiplex

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Blognostic said...

Hope many such real-life incident based movies are made, in other Indian languages too.

Pradosh said...

Amen to that