No One Killed Jessica – Fictional Truth

No One Killed Jessica is based on the recent high profile murder case of Model Jessica Lal by the accused Manu Sharma. This fact was known to almost everybody who went in to see the movie. The promos had revealed it all plus the murder case was in headlines far too long to fade away from public memory. So the best or the worst part of the film was that everybody knew the story and what would happen the minute the film started. The movie indeed has fictionalized the story and has totally fictional characters, ( Rani Mukerji’s Barkha Dutt inspired character has nothing to do with this case in real life), but it was quite apparent that the core of the film is the same as the newspaper headlines that hogged for years.

The movie promises well but the director Raj Kumar Gupta ( of Aamir)  is unable to decide whether to make a hardcore documentary kind of film or fictionalize it and make it more filmy. By Introducing Rani Mukerji as the central character and the ‘voice’ behind the film the maker begins by fictionalizing the facts and mixes up showing true facts. Vidya Balan as Sabrina Lal, the murder victim’s plain-jane sister carries her act fine but then in the 2nd half just gives up the fight and leaves everything for Rani Mukerji’s character to do. The movie has some gripping moments especially initially but the main problem with it as that everything is known right from twists to endings thanks to the case being discussed so much in media. Although Vidya Balan acts quite decent and looks natural as the grieving sister of the murder victim. She does go hyper in some scenes but overall she is the only redeeming factor in this over-the-top fictionalized factual film. Myra portraying murdered Jessica Lal looks quite good and acts well too. Rajesh Sharma as the Inspector with heart actually should have been the protagonist  and voice behind  the movie. Neil Bhoopalam playing the lame duck ‘Shayan Munshi’ character and other people representing lawyers and witnesses and all are ordinary

Coming to the character of Rani Mukerji, Mira. Why does the character have to be based on Barkha Dutt ?  Why is Barkha Dutt the only journalist ever portrayed in films? What is the real Barkha Dutt’s contribution as a journalist? Yes, she was in Kargil and she has covered many other scams but why model Rani’s character based on her? Is real Barkha Dutt like how Rani is portrayed in the film? I doubt so. Does a ‘modern’ career-minded Indian woman has to smoke and mouth Gaalis in every 2nd sentence just to show how ‘ forward’ thinking she is ? Rani Mukerji mouths the choicest of abuses without ever meaning them and needing them. It all looks fake when a dumb Indian flyer describes Kargil war as ‘cool’ as a video game and Rai retors back with a ‘cuss’ word, what was the need of that scene? Was it just created to be used for promos and get silly Indian viewers in the hall expecting Rani Mukerji to be as lewd as in the promo !!! Also why does Barkha and NDTV get credit for everything when they had nothing to do with the real case. Why wasn’t the real people of ‘Tehelka’ given just a Thank you at the end and not the ‘lead’ ? Was NDTV’s inclusion in the film paid for?? I hope Nira Radia didnt fix this deal 🙂

The film has issues with detailing as well and misses out many times on that front. Factual Errors I spotted were wrong dates being used when Vidya is interviewed for the first time on TV, wrong news messages used as ticker tapes in many scenes. Delhi Metro being shown active in 1999 !! Mention of Barack Obama in one of the news headlines in 2000 !! The film looks more fake with such silly mistakes. Camerawork is slightly superior though and the music by Amit Trivedi is quite popular these days although I have my issues with silly song like ‘ aali re saali re, halkat ,moonh phat’ kind of song describing Rani Mukerji.

Personally I did not find the film as engaging as it promised and I was underwhelmed after watching it as perhaps I had expected more from the first film of this decade. The film should have stuck to either serious documentary style of film or a totally masala fictionalized account of the event. In between and mish-mash did not work for me.

My Ratings: 6.5/10 – Not bad but not great either.

P.S. Killer suggestion –  if the makers were really brave enough and waned to make a masala entertainer from thie film then they should have dropped Rani Mukerji and taken SUNNY DEOL as the firebrand reporter. Sunny paji personally man-handling witnesses and lawyers and judge would be some sight and Jessica would have got a favorable judgement rather soon.

Peepli [Live] keeps Alive the Flame of Good Cinema

Peepli [Live], an Aamir Khan production movie, is one of best satires that Indian cinema has seen in some time.  Directed by first timer Anusha Rizvi and starring virtually unknown faces, it shows the plight of helpless farmer family who are made pawns in the game played by various Television channels, political parties, bureaucrats and local henchmen.

The plot of the film is about Natha and Budhia as two poor farmers, residents of the Peepli. The two brothers face losing their farm lands over an unpaid government loan. They seek help from a local politician, who advises them to commit suicide to benefit from another government program that helps families of poor farmers who have committed suicide from debt. They think long about it and cunning elder brother convinces Natha to commit suicide so that he would get Rs. 1,00,000 from government. A local journalist overhears Budhia to urge Natha to commit suicide. In his zeal to make news out of nothing he prints that and all hell breaks loose.

Mainstream media, in an effort to garner more TRPs start covering the news and  giving it a political twist by blaming the agriculture minister and then the chief minister of the state. The rival channels follow them to the village. The politicians get to hear about it and they join in the circus along with the bureaucrats. Everybody invades Peepli, interviewing Natha, his family, his freinds and whomsoever they can find. They camp outside his house and make the entire thing a big farce. No one really bothers about Natha and the reason for which he wants to commit suicide.

The movie ends in a mad chase for Natha and oneupmanship by various media houses and political parties and local leaders with no one really caring about poor family. The end is of course tragic with Natha assumed dead in an accident with the family not getting any money as it wasn’t a suicide.

The movie is a big big satire on Indian system overall, Indian politicians and especially mad rush by television channels to gather TRPs and nothing else. It has shown the true colors of India, which exists today beyond the few big cities. It is certainly an eye-opener.

The film doesn’t star any big stars but mostly theater actors with Raghuvir Yadav as Budhia as perhaps the only known face. Omkar Manikpuri as Natha suits the role however I found him more comic looking than tragic and doesnt have to many expressions of even dialogues. Rest of the caste is unnown but well caste, especially Malaika Shenoy as a ‘Barkha Dutt Clone’ representing English media and Vishal Sharma as Deepak representing Hindi news channels are absolutely perfect and their acts liven up the film. Various other actors have smallish roles with Naseeruddin Shah in yet another cameo as agriculture minister. Naseer nowadays does more cameo roles than anything substantial.

The movie, to be honest is decent and very well made with amazing detailing, which is a rarity in Bollywood cinema. Rural India is shown perfectly as it is and the rural-urban divide is startling in the opening scene and then at the end. The satire works and even if you laugh, with a lump in the heart , at the film you know you are laughing not at the plight of Natha but the general conditions of rural India of today. The movie reminded me of the best satire ever made in a Hindi film history – ‘Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron’ especially with the end. The pace of the movie is bit slow especially in the first half and the language at times crude, however it does sound genuine. Although I do not like when audiences laugh and clap by just hearing crude Hindi words. The movie is good, although not a great movie.

The critics have liked it,  common people have admired it and the movie is doing quite well at the box office as well, inspiite of no stars and rural theme thus proving that good content always works. Certainly such kind of films should be made and marketed and released in mainstream. Lastly, a word about the producer Aamir Khan. If it were not for Aamir Khan the producer backing the film, marketing the film, publicizing it at every avenue, I doubt if any of us would have even bothered to see the film. Perhaps the film wouldn’t have got a mainstream release as well. At the most it would have got some awards in some obscure film festivals of the world and perhaps a standing ovation from some weird juries, but it certainly wouldn’t have got the kind of audience it has got now. All credit to the ‘golden’ man Aamir Khan.

My Ratings: 8/10 –  Do watch it to know the true India.