Two minutes into Dharani Dharan’s Jackson Durai, I can’t help but wonder: What is it with ghosts and bungalows? Why do they only inhabit high-maintenance places like palaces, colonial buildings, and bungalows? Why not ever a shopping mall, or a Chennai Corporation office, or somewhere equally mundane?
In any case, the ‘Pei Bangla’ in Jackson Durai is inhabited by ghosts from the British Era. The ghosts haunt the people living in the Iyyanpuram village. They steal copies of The Hindu from the newspaper boy, demand one goat every week as sacrifice from the villagers, and want sacks of rice as tax. To cope with this menace and investigate the spooky happenings, a police officer named Sathya (Sibiraj) is dispatched from Chennai to investigate. As he gets on his Royal Enfield, and begins his journey to the village, these lyrics are being sung: Motor..Motor Bike-u..burr burr burr. Call it a bad omen.
We don’t expect logic from a film in which Rajendran plays a British sepoy called ‘Bradley’. And truly, if the director wanted to give us a horror comedy, we’d be willingly tucked into our seats, ready to laugh and be entertained. Unfortunately, what we get instead is a lot of mixed signals.
Jackson Durai intersperses improbably and weird scenes with a flashback where a group of ‘rebels’, led by Sathyaraj, are brutally killed by Jackson. The director wants us to sympathize with ghosts. We want to, too. But the contrast is too sharp. The mood swinging too dramatic. It leaves us restless.
Then, there’s the soporific, forced romantic track between Sibiraj and Bindhu Madhavi. Bindu Madhavi does some things with hand movements, which are reminiscent of a nervous school kid in a play.
On the other hand, the sound design of the film is impressive and provide all the intended shudders and shocks. The songs, barring the inexplicable Burr Burr song, are amusing and fitting. For instance, the film opens with a 50s Tamil song that goes ‘Hello, Mr. Zamindar’. Then there’s the opera music that plays in the haunted home. The art department does a stellar job with the haunted bungalow, from the eerie Victorian gates with gargoyles on either side to the intricate bathtub setting, with colorful glass bottles of bath oils. The details are riveting.
Jackson Durai is stuck between the serious and the funny, and leaves us with an enduring feeling of confusion. Still, it also makes you want to see more of ‘Bradley’, the ‘Taaaamil’ speaking English female ghost, and the little English boy ghost (Whom Karunakaran calls ‘Harry Potter’, because he’s the ‘boy who lived’?) who loves ‘Mysorepak’.
The Jackson Durai review is a Silverscreen original article. It was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the movie. Silverscreen.in and its writers do not have any commercial relationship with movies that are reviewed on the site.