Jagga Jasoos (2017) Review!!

Synopsis – Join Jagga, a gifted teenage detective, who along with a female companion, is on a quest to find his missing father.

My Take – Finally, the much anticipated Ranbir Kapoor & Katrina Kaif starrer has released in cinemas! After much complications, several re-shoots and one very public breakup between the lead pair later, this Anurag Basu directed Disney film has finally seen the light of day & whether you love it or hate it, you have to appreciate Ranbir & Anurag (co producers on the film) for their vision & their efforts on such a risky genre after the very successful Barfi. Personally, I don’t think this is everyone’s cup of tea, especially for an audience who still expect the film’s male lead to fight the bad guys, romance the girl & dance his way to the climax. For such an audience, this bold and daring film where the leading man doesn’t speak many words, but instead stutters & clears his speech in the form of a song, will be a huge turn off, however, for the rest, this one is sure to blow your mind! An out and out musical, the film is one of its kind with nearly 29 songs and a Tintin-like mystery adventure narrative presented in a sing-song Disney live action format. Here, director Anurag Basu, the brains and the heart behind the film, probably has a list somewhere of the references, tributes and homages from comic books like Tintin, to films like Indiana Jones, along with a collection of classic capers and contemporary comedies, that he decided to throw into a mix, resulting in a film which is a zany, warm-hearted and flawed yet never loses its infectious spirit of adventure even in its most expendable moments. The story follows Jagga (Ranbir Kapoor), a bespectacled orphan who lives in a hospital in Ukhrul, Manipur. Due to his debilitating stuttering, the boy chooses to stay silent until he comes upon Bagchi (Saswata Chatterjee), a kind gentleman admitted in the same hospital. Nicknaming himself Tutti Futti, Jagga is advised by him to overcome his speech impairment by singing instead of speaking. Ending up being adopted by Bagchi, Jagga’s fairy tale life begins with playing in the rain, breakfasts, stories and adventures, until a visit from a mysterious man (Saurabh Shukla) bursts that happy bubble and, before Jagga can ever try to finish a sentence, Tutti Futti is gone, leaving him at the staircase of a boy’s hostel. However, despite physically staying away from him all this years, Bagchi always sends a videotape to his adopted son for his birthday, while also giving him a taste of his own personal Wikipedia and teaches him everything he needs to know about life, history and basic crime detection in the tape.

Years later, Jagga has finally moved into adolescence, while still staying at the hostel, has turned into a brilliant detective with his sharp mind and observation, helps the police of his town to solve murders & other crimes. And during one such case, he meets Shruti (Katrina Kaif), an investigative journalist, with whom he forms an instant connection due to her severe resemblance with Bagchi’s antics. Unfortunately, on this birthday, unlike every year, instead of a tape, the news of Bagchi’s demise arrives. Shattered at first, Jagga smells out foul play based on the reported evidence, courting Shruti’s help, the duo takes on a globetrotting adventure, while unveiling a cobweb of international illegal arms export. This film that seems to be taken straight out of a magical comic-book and manages to keep you intrigued till the end credits kick in. Being promoted as a children’s film, it deals with an important topic of illegal arms and the message has been carved keeping a child’s interest in mind. I agree, the story is not so uncommon; so, what’s so special about this film? Simple, it’s the way this story has been told. The interest generating Jagaa’s character from his childhood to present day, his highly strong and emotional bond with his father, his investigative acumen, his ability of case-solving and eventually finding about the truth of his father, all have been dealt with a magical blend of music and visuals. The first half of the film is extremely entertaining with Jagga’s back-story and build up. The film, directed and written by Anurag Basu, plays out like a fairytale musical. Almost every dialogue is in the form of catchy rhymes and tunes. The rhythm of the film will take some getting used to, but once you’re comfortable with the tempo, you’ll see that this is truly a fresh adventure & a far cry from the formulaic Bollywood love stories we’re so used to. The chronicles of Jagga from solving local cases to becoming too big for his shoes takes you to a places where you wouldn’t think- the larger scheme of things is where he lands himself in trouble time and again. The narrative is designed for children and the maker makes sure that he comments on the social evils in the world as well. Jagga’s longing for his father takes him on a search for the missing pieces of his father’s life.  All the while, director Anurag Basu‘s manages to even scoop in throwbacks to wonderful things we have grown up with. From Sherlock Holmes and video tapes along with references to classic films, director Basu strikes all the right notes. After Barfi, it was expected that director Basu is going to give that appealing look to the film with Ravi Varman’s cinematography and he has again succeeded in it. The cases Jagga solves are good but the presentation is great, mainly as they have both comedy and darkness. Ravi Verman‘s frames feel right out of a storybook and the colors just pop out like any other Hollywood feel-good Disney film. The locations become more fairy-tale like due to the treatment by Varman which are colorful and energetic. The picturesque North East has been presented beautifully along with Moroccan streets and several Madagascar-ish touch-ups. No matter how exotic the film feels, the heart of the film is typically Bollywood, with lots of emotions and childlike innocence and naivety. Director Basu has given his quintessential touch to the film with a subtle love story, a heart-warming tale of a father-son duo and certain animated expressions. One thing that caught my attention was how cleverly written Shruti’s part essayed by Katrina Kaif is. She plays a journalist who is a goofball and nicely fits the scheme of things. Having justified the accent that comes from the west, she flip-flops and matches the energy of the narrative. The film is as high on pratfalls as it is low on mystery. The film has enough a-ha moments to satisfy anybody who has been tuned into popular culture and the news over the past few decades. Like the clues to Bagchi’s disappearance that are scattered through the narrative, director Basu leaves a bread crumb of trails of the part-fiction and part-fantasy world that he is trying to evoke in his films. The director gives away the reasons for Bagchi’s actions in the opening sequence itself. It’s a clever Forrest Gump-like reference, and would have been even smarter if the director hadn’t spelt it out. Music director Pritam is equally vital to this film as he in a way has given the soul to the film in the form of songs which constitute the major part of the film. Just think, there’s a song only based on one dialogue ‘Sab Khaana Khaake Daru Pee Ke Chale Gaye’ and it just connects with you. Every song, how simple or deep, has been crafted to feel lively. It’s also Amitabh Bhattacharya’s lyrics that take the songs and film to higher level. Is everything weaved together successful? Not quite. With a run-time of 162 minutes, there are whole chunks – especially in the second half – that could have easily been avoided. Even though very enjoyable, the second half of the film feels a little stretched and you can spot continuity errors through the climax. The film has been re-shot quite a few number of times and it all shows in the later half. The VFX of the film are quite shabby, but Bollywood is still too poor to inculcate Hollywood-style graphics.

Only if the budget would have allowed finer post-production, the film would have matched to any other Disney live-action. Also, the political references are largely toothless and perfunctory, except for one song about farmer suicides and people dying in riots, which is so extreme a mismatch with the material that it took my breath away. The singing stratagem occasionally gets in its own way, with dramatic scenes rendered silly by characters breaking into song. Yet, there is a sense of awe in the way director Anurag Basu envisions it all. You get a sense that he isn’t forced to dream. His vivid cinematic canvas isn’t merely a desperate reaction to the truths of this bitter world. His version of magic realism is global and regional, inspired and derivative, real and innocent, organic and scattered; his manner of storytelling isn’t just another overly inventive or franchise-centric reincarnation of disillusioned realism. He thinks on a purely sensory level – of adults willfully occupying a child’s dreamscape, populating an environment full of visual entendre, haphazardly organized choreography, color-coordinated hues, circus-like chases and unevenly quirky narratives. The sounds, the whimsical imagery, the Broadway-musical language, the Chaplin-ish milieu – they all belong to the sort of aesthetically aspirational universe that makes me love the films. The film without a doubt belongs to Ranbir Kapoor, in of the best roles and performances of his career. He is the ultimate reason why you stayed glued to the screen while proving again why he is the best actor of this generation. His animated expressions suit the setup of the film and at no point does he feel too dramatic or over expressive. Ranbir’s stuttering, the pro-active look when he is solving the case, his longing for his father and the way he looks at Shruti touches your heart. His dance in Galti Se Mistake is engaging so is the way he cries when he doesn’t get a gift from his dad on one of his birthdays. Suspension of disbelief is required to accept the 34-year-old actor as a teenager, but there is no doubt about his command over his character. Working with only a handful of lines, most of which are barely comprehensible because of his stammer, and relying entirely on his screen magnetism, expressive face and graceful body language, Ranbir Kapoor is a delight. Katrina Kaif too is perfectly cast as a glamourous sidekick who doesn’t have to do too much heavy lifting and in fact, evoke chuckles as a clumsy yet impressive investigator. Saswata Chatterjee (Kahaani) is brilliant in his role. He is impressive with his emotions and more than his words, it’s his eyes that do the talking. Saurabh Shukla as one of the many villains is impressive in his part, however, the portions between him and Jagg will remind you of their Barfi equation, a lot. Unfortunately, rising actress Sayani Gupta (Fan, Jolly LLB 2) is wasted. For a country that has virtually built its legacy of cinematic expression on the foundation of amplified song-and-dance grammar, it’s odd that making a sprawling, conventional musical is considered a huge risk. It took eleven years for anyone to dare in mainstream Hindi cinema, after Shirish Kunder’s misunderstood flop Jaan-E-Mann (2006) starring Salman Khan, Preity Zinta & Akshay Kumar. If only this film gets the kind of love it deserves, we may end up with a sequel and explore the antagonist character (a special appearance) who shows in the final sequence of the film. On the whole, ‘Jagga Jasoos’ is an experimental yet entertaining film which despite its flaws is worth a watch for its sheer imagination & Ranbir‘s performance.

Directed – Anurag Basu

Starring – Saswata Chatterjee, Ranbir Kapoor, Katrina Kaif

Rated – PG

Run Time – 170 minutes

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