Anurag Basu clearly hasn’t gotten over Amelie.
Jagga, the film’s eponymous hero, has traces of the kind and inquisitive Parisian girl. As a lonely child in a residential school, Jagga notices a regular ‘Boy Loves Girl’ message on an old wooden desk, perhaps carved by two lovers from an old batch. Little Jagga does some detective work on his own, and traces the couple. Upon discovering that the woman is now dead, leaving behind the despondent man, Jagga works his magic. He anonymously gifts the old man the desk, and watches his tears of joy from a distance. Jagga knows how precious and rare true love can be. That incident also kindles in him his inner sleuth.
Anurag Basu knows how to set the tone of his film. He ushers us into the whimsical, eccentric world of Jagga, the boy with a heart of gold and a Tintin mane, like a rabbit that led Alice into the wonderland. The production design is quaint and Ravi Varman’s camera has eyes for all things pretty. Basu experiments with visuals and music, and uses myriads forms of story-telling – all with a crazy energy.
Jagga Jasoos belongs to the buttery genre of feel-good films that Basu and Rajkumar Hirani are known for. The films centres around quirky, smart, and good-hearted protagonists, with evident social issues. Rancho of 3 Idiots, the deaf and mute Barfi of Barfi, and Jagga of Jagga Jasoos could be cousins in another world.
The film revolves around Jagga (Ranbir Kapoor), a young school boy, who travels to Africa in search of his missing step-father. By his side is Shruti Sengupta (Katrina Kaif), an investigative journalist whom Jagga had once rescued from a set of insurgents.
In a Kabir Khan film, this journey would have launched a steamy flamboyant affair between the two young people, and the adventures they face would have been far more fatal, life-threatening, and conventional. Basu’s film has a singular charm and a sense of innocence that he carefully retains till the closing scene.
There is an instance where Shruti wreaks havoc in Jagga’s tiny abode, setting his only belongings in fire. In the scene that follows, you see Jagga singing about his books, cutlery, an old timepiece, and underwear, all of which is now a pile of charcoal. It is in the same movie a plot line about underworld dons and high-profile arms dealers run. Basu deftly and smoothly mixes these oddities to make a delectable dessert.
The film has a shade of Charlie Chaplin too. An orphan, Jagga is adopted by a stranger who goes by the name Tutti Futti. Jagga doesn’t ask him any questions, so the movie too, doesn’t. Tutti Futti loves Jagga like his own. Much like Chaplin’s Tramp and the kid. Only that here, it is the kid who finds the tramp, not vice-versa. Also, the evil men who break into the duo’s modest haven, come looking for the tramp, not the kid. The kid, Jagga, is truly an unwanted.
The film opens to a story-telling session for children, led by a pretty Kaif who narrates to the kids the tales of Jagga’s incredible adventures. She assures the kids (and the audience) that Jagga is indeed a real person. But you know Basu doesn’t mean it. You can almost see him behind the curtain, trying hard not to laugh out. He presents Jagga like a slice of a bed-time fairy-tale. The film slips effortlessly from stage-skit to real places, from songs to prose, from a moment of tragedy to an exciting ride on ostrich.
Basu’s film isn’t bothered about believability. You haveRanbir Kapoor dancing in a school uniform as Jagga, a 16-year-old, and Katrina Kaif playing Shruti, an internationally renowned investigative journalist. You see Jagga and Shruti easily sneaking around a tightly-secured area as if they are invisible, and Jagga making perfect decisions at the right time, purely out of instinct and a little superstition. But you would not waste a moment disagreeing with the film’s points, but jump aboard, for there is so much going on. The film proceeds at a compelling pace.
But this pace of the film might come across as problematic, especially on a second watch. It tends to deceive the audience, hiding from them the details that expose the film’s blots. In Barfi, Basu had a straightforward story to narrate. There was a mute and deaf guy who falls in love with two women, in two different time periods. The women love him back too, almost simultaneously. The film was built on brilliant, formidable portrayal of the relationships between the three characters. Although using a plagiarised plot, the film tells you more on a minor character like Shruti’s mother. The film cared about its characters genuinely.
In Jagga Jasoos, the characters interact in an ambiguous realm. There is a desperation to add some quirkiness to every object on the screen. The film is at times, a Tinkle digest page-turner. The shallowness is strikingly visible.
It is lyricist Abhishek Bhattacharya who tries to cover up this lack of depth with his intelligent lines. The song, ‘Humko Usse Kya’ (How does it matter to us), states that the film hasn’t forgotten to be politically relevant. It asks the kids to see why Jagga’s story is an important one. ‘Daaru Peeke Khaane Khaake Chale Gayi’ (Drank, Ate and Left The Scene) is a buoyant song with a clever philosophical undertone. Ravi Varman’s camera moves beautifully, like a leaf in the wind in this sequence.
Ranbir Kapoor stutters and stammers like his character Prem in Ajab Prem Ki Ghazab Kahaani, and puts his enviable physical fluidity to use, like how he did in Barfi! He is fantastic as Jagga, even if his performance might evoke a lot of deja vu. Katrina Kaif doesn’t looks like a journalist on a mission. She looks more like Ajab Prem‘s Jenny who is a clumsy barbie doll. That she cannot act doesn’t come across as a problem in Jagga Jasoos. She is a lovely addition to the toy-town universe of the film.
It will take a few more movies from Basu to decide whether his style is rubbing the local audience the right way. His films are sure charming and quirky, but they, for the most part, look heavily photo-shopped, clean of any rough edges and a homemade flavour. Jagga Jasoos has brilliantly choreographed comic and action scenes, but its most crucial plot-points are not very intelligent. Worse, they look clumsily contrived for the sake of being offbeat. There are times in the film when you wish the two characters engage in a real conversation about what they want from each other. That never happens.
Nevertheless, the passion and precision with which these artistes and filmmakers have attempted to make a film that do not tread the same path as its industry contemporaries or predecessors, is highly admirable.
The Jagga Jasoos 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.