Jagga Jasoos review: Totally different take on a Bollywood musical
From the brilliant director Anurag Basu, who brought audiences the wonderful Barfi, comes a totally different take on a Bollywood musical. With Ranbir Kapoor, his leading man from Barfi, who doubles up as producer here, Basu creates a magical fairy tale world inhabited by some really fun and interesting characters.
The film has 29 songs, this as a result of the title character only being able to communicate by singing as a result of his stammer. It's a bold experiment, but the sum of many amazing parts don't add up to the whole.
A young Jagga grows up in a quaint town with his accident prone adoptive father. At school Jagga is like an intrepid detective, often helping the resident police force solve crimes.
His father is a great influence in his life and way of thinking. They live a happy simple life until some strange men show up at their home and his father sets off on the run with him. His father places him in a boarding school and disappears.
Their only contact is an annual video tape Jagga receives on his birthday. One year it fails to arrive and Jagga, now a young man, sets off to find his father. He is accompanied by Shruti, a journalist, whom also happens to be accident prone.
He had helped her solve a case which she was investigating and they enjoy a strong friendship. In their quest to solve the mystery of Jagga’s missing father, they uncover an international smuggling ring which is linked to his father in some way. Their journey takes them to various places enjoying thrilling adventure along the way, eventually landing up in Africa for a climax in which Basu throws in everything including the kitchen sink. There’s a circus, nefarious army generals and soldiers, tanks, explosions, wild animals and a whole lot more.
The film is aimed mainly at young audiences with Jagga coming across as a live version of Herge’s popular comic strip hero Tintin, replete with his own hair weave. But some of the very intense scenes and philosophical dialogue / lyrics may perhaps be a bit above their understanding and will be enjoyed more by adult audiences. Shruti narrates the stories of Detective Jagga, which have been written in a series of comic books, to young students who play out these scenes to their classmates and in turn the audience gets to see the dramatized version with the actual characters.
Basu offers us a bold imaginative world and through cinematographer S. Ravi Varman’s striking visuals and the evocatively atmospheric production design we get to enjoy some fantastic sequences in exotic locations. The film has been shot in India, Thailand, Morocco and South Africa with the latter two countries playing out as a fictitious African city.
The most experimental part of the film is the singing dialogue which Ranbir Kapoor pulls of with aplomb, ably assisted by Basu and his team of lyricists, as well as composer Pritam who adds some fun and insightful actual songs to the soundtrack. Kapoor steals the show. He is a superbly talented actor who shines even when he is working with weak material. Thankfully here his partner is the greatly inventive Basu and together, in individual scenes, they offer some really great work and fantastical moments. Katrina Kaif is very beautiful and a good actress, but as the bumbling Shruti she is strictly okay. She never rises to the level Kapoor sets.
Their scenes together are fun, but when she's riding solo its often flat. As Jagga’s father Bagchi, Saswata Chatterjee offers great depth and is a joy to behold, while the always reliable Saurabh Shukla revels in his role as Bagchi’s double agent superior. The entire supporting cast are good. The action sequences are thrilling and the effects are breathtaking in keeping with the style of the film. There are many wonderfully creative touches including how audiences are told that it is intermission.
There is always a title that goes up at that point in a film. But that’s far too boring for Basu. He is solely responsible for the story and screenplay so therefore should get the credit for all the high moments, but also the blame for the low ones which is unbecoming of a talent of his stature.
There is a pivotal scene on which the actions of the leads hang and it the non action of an important character which is exceptionally disappointing.
Shukla’s character is given a video tape by Bagchi containing damning evidence against the smugglers top brass. He never watches it until he meets with them bragging that he can now take them down. When watching it in their presence he realises he was given the incorrect tape, one which was meant for Jagga. This is really weak. Surely such an important piece of evidence would have been thoroughly checked by a senior official like him?
The film is far too long and needed more judicious editing. At almost three hours in duration it could have lost at least 45 minutes which would have upped the pace and intrigue.
The ending is very manic, in keeping with the filming style I suppose, but it becomes erratic and a tat illogical. But then it is a comic book fantasy.
The film was three and a half years in the making with many re - shoots. It lost one of its key characters and veteran actor Govinda was very upset that all of his scenes ended up on the cutting room floor. Up until a few weeks before the release the stars were still being asked to shoot more scenes, with the visual effects and music being worked on as well.
The result could have been very messy, but to his credit Basu has created a wonderful family fantasy. But for the inordinate length and some aspects which detract from the overall enjoyment, there are many magical moments to savour.
Unfortunately we don’t give half stars, but if we did this film would merit three and a half stars.