Synopsis – A newly appointed Senior Inspector finds herself against very powerful goons and having people from her own department against her.
My Take – Until a few years back, director Prakash Jha was one of the most formidable & proficient filmmakers in Bollywood. His award winning films such as Mrityudand, Gangaajal, Apaharan & Raajneeti are considered as among the best genre film till date. The hard hitting reality of societies norms & the politics surrounding them were always a delight to watch. But alas like most film makers, his tried & tested formula ran its course in other words predictability flew in, which were quite evident from films such Aarakshan, Chakravyuh & Satyagraha. So does the film maker bounce back with his latest offering? Well not really. Just to make it clear this film despite its title has nothing to do with 2003’s Gangaajal, apart from the fact that both the films had the same director, both the movies deal with cops and both have something to do with police department against vigilante justice, in the former it was vigilante cops, here it is a whole neighborhood which resorts to vigilante justice. The story follows Abha Mathur (Priyanka Chopra), who arrives as the New SP of Bankipur, a neighborhood and residential area in Patna in the Indian state of Bihar, on the recommendation of a minister (Kiran Karmarkar) with whom her family has good relations. Abha is no file-pushing stooge. She is the type who chases criminals on the streets with the enthusiasm of a rookie constable. The hardest-working SP in the country soon finds herself embroiled in the machinations of the local MLA Dabloo (Manav Kaul) and Babloo Pandey (Ninad Kamat), who are trying to steamroll the town’s residents into giving up their agricultural land for a power project.
Her every move is anticipated and checkmated by BN Singh (Prakash Jha), the circle inspector is on the payroll of Dabloo and gives them ample protection from the law. The pretty police officer can do little more than purse her lips in frustration and wait for another chance to swing her wooden stick. Abha has to control the law and order in Bankipur where the people and the politicians/goons are with an internal war with one another and the police are forced to become mere spectators. The premise is awesome, but is completely drained out because of a weak screenplay, which goes wandering in the oft repeated scenes of honest police offer, corrupt police officer, politicians etc., in the first half, and even when the twist happens, the movie again seems like been there down that routine of the same cop versus corrupt politician saga. But the real catch is, basing it on the publicity material of this Prakash Jha film, Priyanka Chopra’s face adorns every poster of the film, but the real hero and the one who gets the most screen time is Jha himself. Yes, this 149-minute saga is not about Abha Mathur’s clean-up of the rot that infects the city. Rather, it’s about the turning of the worm. While Chopra’s Abha Mathur has a predictable story arc, staying idealistic and miss goody-two-shoes till the end, Jha’s character undergoes a transformation, from a corrupt officer openly subverting the law to a crazed vigilante who isn’t opposed to public lynching and murder to avenge those he once counted as friends. Jha’s films have always had the theme of the oppressor and the oppressed, including more recent attempts at mainstream film-making such as “Aarakshan” and “Satyagraha”. Here, Jha re purposes his 2003 film “Gangaajal”, centering around an honest cop out to set the world right. Inequality in society, breakdown of law and order, the story of one man’s redemption – these are all stories Jha has told before. This time, he doesn’t bother to come up with a new way of story-telling. This is hardly surprising. Jha has been making movies about Bihar for decades and he can shade in his small-town environments and characters in a way that most Bollywood directors aren’t able to. Amid all the kidnappings, murders and land grabs that one expects from a Bihar crime film, there are intriguing little touches that stand out, like the way people say “suicide” when they mean death by hanging (this might be the first film which has someone talk about “murder by suicide”).
Direction wise Prakash Jha chooses his favorite genre of “political drama” but loses the balances tripping down the rabbit hole. Fans who adored Jha‘s “Gangaajal” will be disappointed as this quasi sequel is not as remarkable as the previous film. For all its high-minded moralizing, the film plays out like a 1980s vigilante movie. Abha’s near-abstract insistence on following the rules – a more uncharitable assessment would be to doubt her intelligence at grasping the reality of the situation – barely fits with the portrayal of a criminal justice system that has completely corroded. Priyanka Chopra’s distracting glamorous looks find mention but once in the movie, although she is by far the most attractive creature in the small-town outpost. The actor brings her customary efficiency and dedication to the role. Despite being miscast, she works hard. She has her fair share of action scenes to prove her physical prowess. Prakash Jha gets the most meatiest part and does an excellent job. It is Prakash Jha as Bholenath actually carries the film on his shoulders, as a corrupt cop turned vigilante supporter, the role has many shades. Vega Tamotia is excellent as the unrelenting girl showing defiance even after being aware of the fate which awaits her. She performs ably and holds her own against Prakash Jha and Priyanka Chopra. Ninad Kamat & Manav Kaul do a good job. Rahul Bhat is wasted. On the whole, ‘Jai Gangaajal’ despite being a sincere attempt to portray the stinking truth of Indian politics, it falls short in comparison to its predecessor.
Directed – Prakash Jha
Rated – PG17
Run Time – 149 minutes