Bollywood review: Aishwarya Rai's 'Jazbaa' is underwhelming

While thrashing a rogue into subjugation, a cop orders him to spill the beans. “This isn’t a Hollywood movie,” he announces, adding that in “Bollywood, criminals don’t have any rights.” Ironic, this plays out in a movie borrowed from South Korea, and has no relevance to the sensibilities or styles flaunted in the movie industries the cop was hinting at.

Director Sanjay Gupta continues to borrow movies from other languages, with ‘Jazbaa’ a lift-off of South Korean thriller ‘7Days’.

It’s about a celebrated lady lawyer, who is forced by her daughter’s kidnappers to defend a rapist and murderer. She faithfully follows their plan, until her friend (and now suspended cop) joins her, and decides it’s time to fight back.

It’s evident why Gupta picked this film over others to remake. It feeds on Bollywood’s current favourite topic – women’s empowerment, and brilliantly ties in the comeback heroine’s glorious mommy image.

But, these points appear rather superficial. And, that’s a telling on Gupta’s craft.

The power of mothers and their collective goodness and worth is amplified at every possible twist and turn, turning it into less of a crime thriller and more of a propaganda for mommy power.

Just like his earlier copies (of a handful Hollywood movies and even a Korean one), this one too is high on style, and low on grit or substance. He’s focused more on the texture and tone, with cinematographer Sameer Arya colouring Mumbai in shades of blue and grey. Arya captures the leading lady in striking frames, in slow-motion and otherwise, making it an interesting showreel. There’s also Gupta’s staple car chases, with screeching wheels and blowing dust.

He, however, conveniently forgets to plug the many loopholes that this thriller sadly displays. Had Gupta and writer Robin Bhatt tweaked the script and build up on the intrigue and drama, it would’ve possibly uplifted our experience.

Writer Kamlesh Pandey’s lines flaunt strange philosophies, some that evoke laughter, unintentionally of course. So, during an investigation, a mother draws a strange parallel to her daughter’s life to the way she held her cup of coffee. Possibly a case of being lost in translation, we think.

Aishwarya Rai Bachchan powers Anuradha Verma emphatically. The fact that the actress shares her reel image’s “mommy power” theory just accelerates the on-screen transformation. Dressed in mostly black, with hair shifting from wavy to straight (depending on outdoors or courtroom), Aishwarya attempts to give Anu a no-nonsense edge. However, her blood-shot eyes, dramatic glares and high-pitched tone, reduces her effort into something staggeringly inane and forces us to remain sadly disconnected. Part of the problem, possibly lies with Gupta and his writers, who refuse to let us rally for Anu.

Irrfan Khan slips in as Anu’s loyal sidekick. He’s a seasoned actor, no doubt, and one who we greatly respect, but in here you watch him fumble and falter on so many notes.

Chandan Roy Sanyal, an actor who excelled in Vishal Bharadwaj’s ‘Kaminey’, is reduced to be strange and make stranger sounds. There’s a moment, when he whispers his past misadventures into his lawyer’s ears with menacing mystery allowing a glimpse of his past (on-screen) glory. While Shabana Azmi has a lot of meat to chew on, Jackie Shroff, Siddanth Kapoor and Atul Kulkarni are left with parts that are dreadfully under-written.

Despite landing a great idea, ‘Jazbaa’ remains a shallow watch, where Gupta indulges his South Korean fetish but never challenges himself or his characters to create a world that could’ve been menacingly gripping.

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