A Hit and Run case more often than not raises a morality question. Now, what if such an event involves a person who has built an image for herself of being very upright? What if by profession the person is a journalist and is known to raise tough questions to others day in and day out? What if the victim is the daughter of someone who is like family? Jalsa, the new film that dropped on Amazon Prime tries to answer some of these questions.
At the outset is the morality question that determines the immediate action the main protagonist (played by Vidya Balan who is shown as a top notch journalist for a YouTube channel) takes, when involved in a hit and run case. “Face the truth” is the tagline in all the hoardings featuring her for the channel. Does she face the truth when it comes to her?
Then, there is the class divide under current, the victim being the daughter of the lady who doubles up as cook, care taker etc. in Balan’s own household. How the veneer of decency that existed before the event gets cracked and how the divisions of class come to fore later, form the next issue. These themes are not new as such in Indian films. “White Tiger” is another fine film that had a similar theme around a hit and run case but in a larger context. The Malayalam film “Kaanekkaane” is another great film that built its story around this.
But beyond these, the film also showcases subtly other issues like the craze for likes and followers among today’s “Insta” generation, the larger than life image of star journalists, the sad lives of police constables, insecurities among parents while bringing up a girl child and aspirations of today’s youth and so on. Director Suresh Triveni whose earlier film Tumhari Sulu was of a totally different genre gives a good account of himself in the making of the film which is almost flawless.
Apart from a taut, well written screen play, the other thing the Director gets bang on, is the cast. Will talk about the main protagonists later. Rohini Hattangadi as Vidya Balan’s mother is unbelievably brilliant in the role and what an actress she is. The few scenes between mother (Hattangadi) and daughter (Balan) are some of the best moments in the film. Even the role of Balan’s son with cerebral palsy played by Surya Kasibhatla who himself has the same condition is outstanding. Coming to the lead cast, Shefali Shah as the mother of the accident victim stands out in frame after frame. Watch the scene in the hospital when a friend comes to meet her. She is an incredible talent who can straddle the very upper class elite roles in films like Dil Dhadakne Do to the role of a gangster’s wife in Satya with absolute ease.
For Balan who is the other lead, this is a relatively easy role though she does it with consummate effortlessness. In scenes when she is conflicted between the right and what she actually did, she is very good.
At 2 hours, the film is rightly paced and keeps you engaged throughout. The writing is to the point but for the role of a cub reporter which I thought came out very amateurish. Though they claim it’s a YouTube channel, the trappings were all of a TV channel, I thought. And what’s with the title “Jalsa” for this film? I couldn’t get that. The ending I thought was extremely clever though I could guess what was coming. The camera work, the background score and the framing of the scenes are all on point.
In an industry where average films are routinely promoted with high decibel noise, a very good film like Jalsa just comes out quietly on OTT just on the back of its content. Watch it for that. Jalsa is streaming on Amazon Prime.