‘Jagga Jasoos’: Unbelievable… And not in a good way

by Subhash K Jha

Film: “Jagga Jasoos”; Director: Anurag Basu; Cast: Ranbir Kapoor, Katrina Kaif, Saswat Chatterjee, Saurabh Shukla, Rating:** (2 stars)

Finally, it is herea The film everyone waited to see for three years. Watching it in a theatre with 20-25 percent occupancy is a huge shock. Dammit, this is Anurag Basu’s Disney fantasy-adventure. Our own Harry Potter-meets-Tin Tin-meets-Barfi. And didn’t Ranbir and Basu create the magical in “Barfi” not so long ago ?

As expected, “Jagga Jasoos” wears a huge “Barfi” hangover. It will also remind you of the cinematic styles of several storytelling legends from Satyajit Ray to Tim Burton. But finally this is a world that only Anurag Basu inhabits and comprehends. I am not too sure if that’s reason to rejoice. We can only partake of the goodies from the outside, like curious tourists peering into an exotic country from a cruising.

The storytelling devices in “Jagga Jasoos” deliberately distance us from the bizarre goings on. The plot is a one-liner stretched vast acres of exposition and posturing. A lot of the lengthy playing time is taken up by Ranbir’s Jagga on the run with ‘journalist’ Shruti. As played by Katrina Kaif. Shruti is a bit of a sloppy busybody. And naturally, like most of Ranbir’s most memorable heroines, she is in love with someone else.

As you can see, I am trying desperately to find a plot in a film that is eager to lose it. The plot, I mean. The basic story of an orphan in the northeast looking for his foster-father (Saswat Chatterjee, brilliantly expressive) is lost in reams of dreams woven around the theme of a picaresque adventure in the African jungles populated with endearing species of the animal kingdom, with Saurabh Shukla playing a sinister arms dealer (if you please) in hot pursuit.

It is heartbreaking to reject a film that has so much heart in it. Saswat Chatterjee’s fatherly compulsions colour the quirky goings-on with a touch of class. Much of Ranbir’s waif-in-a-battle act is an extension of “Barfi” with lots more selfindulgent whimsy thrown in. After a while it becomes exhausting watching his livewire act, with Katrina trying to keep pace.

“Jagga Jasoos” feels like a slog, but looks like a dream. Cinematographer Ravi Varman’s work is out-of-this-world. Every frame a visual feast, every shot a painting. He shoots desolate roads and beckoning trees with an inferred passion that is more imagined than tenable.

Having said that, there remains a dark question hovering over this stubbornly light and airy musical. Would the audience accept a film where every conversation is a song? And not a very pleasant one at that. Pritam’s music is there is no polite way of saying it is annoying and awful. He needs to understand there is a difference between cool casualness and outright laziness.

Ranbir and Katrina seem to be braving their way through a blizzard of conversational songs sung in some of the most scenic locations. But instead of breezing through the epic journey, they seem to be wheezing across what looks like a grand slog.

I love the smell of fresh air that the film exudes. The outdoors are so refreshing. I want to immediately takeA a holiday in the locations. But as we all know Man (and Woman) cannot survive on fresh air alone. Ranbir and Katrina struggle and stumble across a journey that is as painful for them, as it is for us.

Sorry, but going by restless angry audience response, this seems to be Ranbir’s own “Tubelight”. Oh, I am sorry, he already has his “Tubelight”. And it was called “Bombay Velvet”.

So what IS this???? I am still trying to figure it out. Beautiful to look at, yet annoying. Gloriously epic in design yet repeatedly brought down by its own ambitions to remain pristine and artless. Reaching for the sky but downsized by the repeated use of distancing devices borrowed from the stage. It’s like being in a room filled with amazing sights and sounds. You quickly want to get away to a more real world of pain and discomfort.

Beyond a point, the beauty of the outer world begins to seem like a mockery of those emotions that we are meant to escape in “Jagga Jasoos”.

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