Monday, January 10, 2011

Jessica Lives.....!

Who said Sunday is a day of rest??? Liar!! I've had the most hectic time yesterday, but am not complaining. It was like a home- coming at Chor Bazar... my first visit after the 26\11 Terror Attacks.What was once my regular and favourite haunt is now a transformed place, virtually deserted except for a few weekend shoppers looking for bargains. The tourists have gone and the wares are being sold at throwaway prices by desolate shop keepers waiting around listlessly for 'dhanda'. Most of my old friends - Ahemedali, Iqbal, Raisullah, are still around... they talked about business being down,down,down since that awful day... and there's no recovery in sight. But the good news is that Ahemedali's two daughters are doing brilliantly ( I have known them since they were little girls), and one of them is now a professor at Wilson College.
So.... what did I buy? Glass jars!!! Gorgeous shapes and sizes ( I have an absolute weakness for glass). I also spotted two wonderful Boondi heads in solid wood ( weighing a ton!), and an old camphor trunk covered in leather with brass rivets. But where do I store my treasures??? Lust and leave - my mantra for 2011!
This appeared in Bombay Times today....

Jessica lives…!

It’s really a sign of our times that public memory has become so alarmingly short, and reference points virtually non-existent. I watched ‘Jessica’ on a Saturday night and was happy to observe a nearly packed hall in a popular multiplex. But ….I didn’t see too many youngsters. Yes, I guess they have far better things to do on a Saturday night than watch a non-masala film about a cause celebre they know nothing about. The two young girls with me were curious up to a point, but from their frequent questions and occasional BBMs, it was obvious they weren’t clued in, nor were they particularly interested. They were there to watch a good film … period. During the interval, I asked them what they thought of the movie and they asked innocently, “But who is Jessica…?” I could forgive them easily for the faux pas when I reminded myself that the Jessica story is over ten years old. These girls were around ten themselves at the time – how would they know …and why should they care? The more important issue is simply this: did the movie work as powerful cinema, devoid of recall or emotional baggage? The answer is a disappointing ‘no’. The script is weak and patchy, with the first half crawling along painfully, establishing nothing more than Vidya Balan’s morose mood. Vidya , who plays Jessica’s sister Sabrina, is projected as a gloomy , angry, bitter woman mourning her sister’s callous murder, while moping around a home that is dark and depressing itself, dressed like a dish rag. Paradoxically, the popular perception of the real life Sabrina is that of an attractive, feisty fighter without whose spirited intervention, the Jessica murder would have been like Aarushi’s – perfect.No suspects, no motives, no arrests.
The weakest link in the film is the role of Manu Sharma, the convicted murderer of Jessica – had the film maker (Ram Kumar Gupta) spent more time giving the audience a slightly more complete backgrounder to the scoundrel, people may have connected better with the story. Instead, what we get is a Babe Film – one ( Rani), a foul mouthed, promiscuous , self styled bitch who takes pride in spewing cuss words liberally and wears her official ‘bitch status’ as a badge of honour ( her maid calls her a ‘kutti’ – and the audience cheers!). The other ( Vidya), a droopy, expressionless , sexless crusader who goes about her commitment glumly and mechanically. There is no passion in her mission, nothing fierce about her desire to vindicate her sister’s murder. The others are mere caricatures… almost childishly etched – from President Kalam and Manmohan Singh to Bina Ramani and Sheila Dixit. The only well written roles belong to the actor playing Shyan Munshi, and the investigating cop. To come to the babes – what can they do if the director sees their characters in a particular way . Rani and Vidya are both seasoned professionals and do the best they can with the material. Rani puts in the more flamboyant performance as a Barkha Dutt clone ( poor Prannoy Roy must have squirmed at his own cameo). Rani’s ‘sheershasan’ scene and the one in which she jumps on to the bonnet of her chief editor’s car, are terrific moments that lift this rather lack luster film from sinking into a tiresome, preachy, verbose docu- drama ( agonizingly turgid court scenes). Given the powerful subject, a more authoritative director could have made a deeply disturbing film chronicling contemporary history in a more engaging way. I came away savouring the few and far between flashes of a newbie called Myra , who plays Jessica with verve and freshness. Had there been more of Myra in the movie, it might have kept more people in the audience absorbed and awake.
The best news on the cultural front is the much awaited revival of that stupendous 1972 classic – Vijay Tendulkar’s “Ghashiram Kotwal’ ( brilliantly directed by Jabbar Patel). I have seen the original production several times… and was hoping Mohan Agashe would once again demonstrate his magnetic stage presence as Nana Phadnavis. Let’s wait and see what Madhav Abhyankar does with the material. This is perhaps the first Facebook generated Marathi play ( actors responded to an appeal posted by Abhyankar ). Nana would have approved of this 21st century strategy!


goodluck said...

I think you have given a very honest review along with Masand.
But then dont campare the movie with real life and see the movie as an entirely fictional work, then you can write another review.
Suppose Sabrina is like her character in the film serious and depressed.

चंद्रमौलेश्वर प्रसाद said...

`Ahemedali, Iqbal, Raisullah, ...'

Terrorists are not bothered about these names :(

Forked Tongue said...

I beg to differ ma'am .People of our generation do know of Jessica case , maybe the two you met were the hi-fi wanabe socialite types :-)

What saddens me to the core is the fact that RARELY Indian film makers take up such sensitive topics and then end up making a 'masala' movie rather than doing justice to the real life story !

Nik said...

I second akshay. I watched the last show of yesterday, and I must admit, it was a jaw dropping experience.

Not because of the movie, because I too travelled the same line f thought; "is movie me kaun ayega"...But to my surprise, it was jam packed. And 80% youngsters!

Second, maam I read your article "a wail from the grave" in The Week.

I would like to title you as "The First Journalist to Rip Apart The Real Realities" of the Aarushi Case. The whole country knows whos the killer. They defend themselves with utmost desperateness almost daily on every other news channel.

Thanks for such a great piece of work.

Divya (Virmani) Chadda said...

Completely agree with the above two comments. Young generation is very well aware of the Jessica case and for those who were virgin to her, got full info from wikipedia. Rahi baat movie ki, I haven't seen it yet but from the promos I surely think Rani and Vidya is the most unflattering combo ever!!!
Not sure what exactly Mr. Gupta was thinking while casting for the movie...grrrr

Apart from this...
Wishing you a very belated happy birthday and from your previous article I could make out how much you enjoyed with your family!
P.S. I did wish you on FB as well :P

Madhu said...

I think the problem these days is that teenagers have much "cool" things going on in their lives like video games/boy friends etc. I am not saying there is anything wrong with it but what happens is that, they loose touch with reality and stay in their fantasy world too long. So ,needless to say they have no cue who Jessica is. Forget Jessica, they hardy know who their next door neighbor is.

Unknown said...

Hello Mam, wish u a very happy birthday and a year full of prosperity. I am Aalia, final year MBA student at AMU Aligarh. We are coming up with a hall magazine for our hall of residence and wish to have your blessings as a message to keep us motivated.

It would be very kind of you to share few words with a picture of yours to be published in the Hall Magazine of Begum Sultan Jahan Hall of residence at the Aligarh Muslim University.

Editorial Team

Have sent you a facebook message with the email ID, kindly grace us with your good wishes.

Anonymous said...

Delhi hasn't changed. I watched the film first day with a hall of Manu Sharmas..who clapped everytime the accused took the frame, and scremed for Myra to 'Take off her top'.. and this was at a respected PVR. The comments were endless and shameless. Nobody was asked to leave..the attendents were sent to stop them, but came back with popcorn orders instead. Jessica didn't live..she died.

Puneet Mathur said...

I heard an interview with Ram Kumar Gupta on the Radio - and he kept on insisting that the movie was NOT about Jessica Lal's story, but was only 'inspired' by it
To me - this is confusion, and a sure shot recipie for half baked stuff - right from the word 'go' I mean - you either make a movie using the exact story (you should in fact tell the story as accurately as possible, on the screen), or you don't. There's no midway.

PAPPU said...

I liked the movie very much. I thought it was great, though I do agree about Vidya's role. It was quite morose. But then even that is the director's vision. Also, it was clearly specified that the movie is an interpretation and not a real account of the characters.
Something makes me feel that this review may be biased. Mrs. De has shown a liking for films like 'Wanted' earlier. Maybe only masala movies do it for her.

Divya (Virmani) Chadda said...

Ms. De,
I just finished watching NOKJ... I beg to differ with your opinion but I absolutely loved the movie. I was too shocked to see what her family went through and it wasn't just a script, it was actually someone's real life. I never followed her story in details when all this was actually happening. However, I'm shocked to see what her family went through at that time.
At times, I wanted to grab the people on the screen and bash them to the core... it was that powerful!

RIP Jessica...

SSQuo said...

Saw the movie last night. It was great, but more than anything I think it brings forward the sometimes forgotten story, and reminds us that if the right amount of pressure is (a LOT) put, things can change. It's a pity that power is so easily translated into stupidity, arrogance and sadness for others.

Kush said...

what?! ms dutt in a movie again! this is an outrage! just google her name or search it on youtube - she's got such a scandalous image on d net - rightly deserved wen in d wake of all the criticism from d blogging community in d aftermath of 26/11 she'd proposed that blogs be monitored - the nerve!

Deeksha said...

hi,I read our book ' shobha at sixty' & I have to say, you have struck the right notes on all the problems related to the sixth decade of our lives.I am 31, but I will follow your advice all my life. plz, plz write another book on parenting. Speedpost was good, so why not an updated version of "Speedpost' now?

smriti said...

ma'am i am a big of yours, you are an ideal women of india, the depth of decency n delicateness in your writings and personality inspires me a lot, your comment on current affairs have different outlook thats peculier i guess, i wish u all d very best for your life, keep rocking !!!