Jalsa (2022) Review!!

Synopsis – It tells the story of a celebrated journalist and her cook and their conflict.

My Take – What would one do if they find themselves in a predicament which forces them to act upon with morality, but in doing so would destroy their whole world which they have so carefully build?

In his sophomore feature, director and co-writer Suresh Triveni, following the highly likable Tumhari Sulu (2017), gives a relatable and gut-wrenching insight into self-preservation and how one’s righteousness crumbles under circumstances especially when pushed over the edge.

Backed by a fantastic ensemble of actors, here, director Triveni frames his human drama as a psychological thriller that is high on momentum and emotion. Making you feel every beat of the characters’ dishonesty, loyalty, helplessness, and ambition with each passing frame.

Most importantly, though the film is divided between two leading ladies of different classes and religions, it never forces down social commentary upon us or tries to educate about the disparities in the society, only subtlety hinting and agreeing to the reality of the situation created in the plot.

Sure, the film’s run time, 126 minutes, is longer and slower than it needed to be, and contains a climax that may leave you wanting more, yet, the sensitive handling of the subject and characters associated with it are enough to appreciate the experience.

The story follows Maya Menon (Vidya Balan), a celebrity TV journalist, successful for her morally fearless and headstrong nature, who lives with her mother, Rukmini (Rohini Hattangadi), and autistic son Ayush (Surya Kasibhatla), who is recovering from a surgery. However, one late night, while driving back home from work, Maya ends up accidentally hitting into a young girl. But instead of helping her or calling for an ambulance, she ends up driving away, leaving the girl to her fate.

Unknown to Maya the girl, Alia (Kashish Rizwan) is actually the daughter of Rukhsana Mohammad (Shefali Shah), her own house help and cook, who is also immensely close to her son. Ridden with guilt, Maya decides to step in and help Ruksana and her family by shifting Alia to a private hospital with the best facilities, but while doing so, also takes the help of her colleague and well-wisher, Amar Malhotra (Mohammed Iqbal Khan), to hush things up.

Making matters worse for her is Rohini George (Vidhatri Bandi), a young journalist from her own team who has begun investigating into the accident, with a determination to uncover the truth and to find out why the local police is trying to close the case without even conducting a basic investigation.

A gripping portrayal of guilt and self-reflection, here, director Suresh Triveni, who has co-written the film with Prajwal Chandrashekar, Abbas Dalal and Hussain Dalal, puts inner conflict at the core of the story and cleverly abstains from letting the two lead characters verbally confront each other. One swamped with guilt, shame and remorse, while the other suffocates with pain and anger.

Thankfully, he doesn’t resort to theatrics to get its point across and sticks to exploring the psyche of his female leads, the everyday challenges of working women, who belong to different social backgrounds but are bound by resilience and motherhood. Their inner turmoil and situational moral compass compels you to churn uncomfortably.

The film also never bring religion and gender into play, and keeps it about how the self-righteous approach crumbles under circumstances. Though most of us have risen over barriers of class disparity, it highlights how the vulnerabilities show up the higher we climb.

A realistic situation the film also encounters are the flaws that exist within the systems of police, politics, media and the rich. And how the lesser-privileged are left with barrel scrapings to choose from.

Yes, I found the pacing of the film all over the place, especially in the final act, when it tries to resolve its multifaceted tensions neatly, but instead ends up appearing rushed. And unlike some, I was disappointing by the climax. While I am all for brave and nuanced experimental cinema. Personally, I felt the open ending left a lot to be desired.

Without a doubt it helps that the film is marked by some superlative acting and dependent on the performances of two powerhouses, Vidya Balan and Shefali Shah. Vidya Balan is excellent as always while demonstrating Maya’s inner conflict with perfection. Every single scene where the pressure is built on her character gives testament to her acting finesse.

Shefali Shah too as always brings home a poignant display of all her experience. Barring her emotional conflicts, Shah manages to overtake the film an n number of times. However, the most surprising performance comes from Surya Kasibatla, who despite reportedly fighting cerebral palsy in real life, comes out as the most natural talent on board.

In supporting roles, Rohini Hattangadi, Vidharthi Bandi, Iqbal Khan, Shafeen Patel, Kashish Rizwan, Junaid Khan, Shrikant Mohan Yadav, and Ghanshyam Lalsa are excellent. Sadly, the ever affable Manav Kaul is wasted in a cameo. On the whole, ‘Jalsa’ is a riveting human drama which despite some failings manages to keep one enthralled.

Directed –

Starring – Vidya Balan, Shefali Shah, Rohini Hattangadi

Rated – PG13

Run Time – 126 minutes

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