Jagga Jasoos: A treat for the senses
The movie is an ambitious three hour spectacle that fuses multiple elements cohesively
Anurag Basu sure does have a sense of cinematic history. His last full-length feature was Barfi, in 2012. Though critically acclaimed in many quarters, Barfi received flak for having purportedly ripped off Chaplin and his iconic scenes from the silent era period of film-making. I, for one, don’t subscribe to the plagiarism claims, as inspiration derived from an artist or a group of artists cannot be passed off as stealing - that is too much of a stretch. Imitation, is after all, the best form of flattery. And Basu, in my opinion, was unfairly taken to task for something all good artists do – which is borrow.
Much like Barfi, Jagga Jasoos, takes cues from a variety of movies from the bygone era. While this project provides tribute to Chaplin & Co., too, the inspiration for its creation is as vast as it is spectacular. The wonder, innocence, and melancholia of the young Jagga can be easily seen as an ode to De Sica’s Bruno in Bicycle Thieves, Ray’s Apu in Pather Panchali, Tornatore’s young Salvatore in Cinema Paradiso, Benigni’s Giosuè in Life Is Beautiful, and Khan’s Ishaan in Taare Zameen Par.
Cast: Ranbir Kapoor, Katrina Kaif, Saswata Chatterjee, Saurabh Shukla
Director: Anurag Basu
Jagga Jasoos is an ambitious three-hour spectacle that combines a musical, crime film noir, a touching father-son tale, and a hilarious (and sometimes grave) mystery/adventure, bringing back memories of former masterpieces belonging to each of those genres. Much like Wes Anderson, Anurag Basu’s Barfi and Jagga Jasoos must be viewed for their cinematic brilliance alone. Stow away the actors and plot for just the time being, and what you get is a visual extravaganza of stunning cinematography, excellent editing, and a big splash of colour. Saswata Chatterjee (who plays Jagga’s adoptive father) remains the acting standout on show, despite playing second fiddle to Kapoor and Kaif through most of the narrative.
A young orphan by the name of Jagga saves a man’s life in a field. The man repays the debt by becoming his foster father, and helps the kid deal with a perpetual stammering problem. Jagga flourishes, and develops a keen eye for solving mysteries. But beneath that benevolent persona, Jagga’s father has a grave secret he hides. Unable to shoulder the responsibility of raising a child in his nefarious profession, he enrolls Jagga in a boarding school. Shruti, on the other hand, is a schoolteacher bent on inspiring her young wards with the exploits of the famous comic character, Jagga Jasoos.
Although the film does touch upon the ills of the illegal arms trade, the whole subject is dealt with much humour (black comedy, every now and then) and pathos. Though Kapoor and Kaif may not have been my ideal choices for the leads, I have to admit that their acting keeps improving as the film progresses. While it’s impossible to mistake Kapoor for a high school student on any given day, Kaif’s performance in the first half is rather mediocre. The length is another criticism that can be levelled against the film – 162 minutes is far too long, according to me. Perhaps it would have made more sense to shorten the narrative by just that little bit. If you happen to be an aesthete, however, the montage of creative shots is sure to see you through, without fail. Jagga Jasoos does fall prey to cliché ever so slightly, but one must pat Basu (and his entire crew) on the back for a courageous attempt at fusing multiple elements for an end-product of such scope and vision.