Prakash Jha’s films have always taken up contemporary burning topics of society and woven dramas around those issues. This time he teams up with Priyanka Chopra for the unrelated part two of his 2003 film starring Ajay Devgn, Gangaajal, with the issue in question being the politician-land mafia nexus. Jai Gangaajal means “hail the Ganges’ water” in Hindi.
The story’s set in a fictional district in Madhya Pradesh, Baankipur. Jha, who also makes his acting début with the movie, stars as Bhola Nath Singh, a Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) in the district. He’s totally corrupt, in the pocket of the local MLA Babloo Pandey (Manav Kaul), and offers cardamom to anyone who differs from his point of view. The district is in total anarchy and chaos. Trouble starts when Singh’s immediate superior, the SP, tries to fight the land mafia – led by the MLA’s brother, Dabloo Pandey (Ninad Kamat) – from illegally acquiring the local market’s land from the market committee. The SP is promptly transferred and our heroine, Abha Mathur (Priyanka Chopra), who happens to be in moral debt of the minister Mr. Chaudhary (he helped her and her mother after her father’s untimely death), is sent in his place as a political appointee. But Abha, or”Madam Sir”, as she’s addressed by her subordinates and locals, has an agenda of her own. She won’t tolerate crime whether the guilty are her department members or some local politician. After she predictably ruffles a few feathers, the MLA wants her transferred but can’t since the model code of conduct is enforced with the declaration of the elections. And Abha gets a chance to set things right in the little time she’s got, fighting the apathy and corruption of her department and the deviousness of the politicians and land mafia.
There are some very catchy, totally rustic dialogues. Like this one by a beat constable after Abha beats up some goons, “Aaj aap humko marad bana diye hain, humko to laga tha napunsak e retire ho jayenge” (You’ve made me a male today. I feared I’d retire an eunuch!!!). And such dialogues aren’t in short supply. The movie has all the hallmarks of a Prakash Jha film. He takes up a big issue as usual and somehow makes it personal for the protagonist. And as is his wont, the film also references a lot of contemporary issues like the Badaun case and the public opposition to power projects. The film has a few threads in common from its supposed senior in the series, Gangaajal, too – the corrupt system, the netas running their constituency like their personal fiefdoms, the unyielding police officer and such. The first half of the movie does the introductions and the setting up job nicely and at the interval break, you feel this is a film that has the legs to go all the way. Unfortunately, right after the interval, the movie goes off-kilter and contrives to undo all the good work of the first half. Those who have watched Gangaajal would remember what kind of justice was served in that movie (“Sab pavittar kar denge“). Although this film doesn’t use eye-burning with acids as a means of justice, it creates its own monster – mob justice. From that point onwards, the movie essentially fights itself to stay on the level. The film nominally has Priyanka Chopra in the lead role but it is as much her vehicle as it is Mr. Jha’s. Both of them are the protagonists and a lot of times when Ms. Chopra – who handles her scenes with aplomb – isn’t on-screen, you’d be fooled into feeling Mr. Jha is the lead actor. One wonders why he never acted earlier. He gets under the skin of his character and doesn’t give you an indication of this being his first time in front of the camera. The other members of the cast play their parts decently although I found the one of the MIT-returned social activist (played by Rahul Bhat) to be superfluous and a cheesy distraction from the proceedings. The film manages to shock you with some of its blunt directness but fails to engage on any emotional or psychological level. At 150 minutes, the film is unnecessarily far too long. The screenplay, also by Mr. Jha, needed to be much tighter. Maybe another draft or two would’ve helped. All the songs are in the background in conjunction with the action on-screen. They are spunky and likeable although they won’t stay very long with you after the film. All in all, if you’re a Prakash Jha or Priyanka Chopra diehard fan, you should go to see this flick. Otherwise, you can give it a miss. Both of them have been part of better films.
Verdict : Jai Gangaajal is a movie aiming for the right place but missing its mark by a long way.
Trivia : The movie was titled “Gangaajal 2” in production stage but owing to a copyright dispute with the producers of the first film, Mr. Jha, who co-produced the movie too, had to change its name.
Jai Gangaajal is 150 minutes long and is rated U/A. It is now playing in cinemas.
Rating : 3/5.
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Thanks for reading.