Jackpot Movie Review: Jyotika and Revathy seem to have fun; we don’t
That the story is centered on two women is not enough to excuse all the dull referencing, the randomness of the narrative, and the mediocrity of all the humour
Kaada muttai (quail egg). Muththuna aamai (overripe tortoise). Asingamaana moonji (revolting face). Echchathattu moonji (a face like a used plate). Kaatu muni (wild hermit). Kaateri (lamia). Kaatu erumai (wild buffalo). Pardon my rather offensive beginning to this review, but I’m simply recounting the many descriptions of Yogi Babu’s appearance in Jackpot. He’s apparently so unpleasant to behold that people are taken aback at the sight of him. In one scene, even a raging bull freezes in its tracks when it catches a glimpse of him. Eventually, his character decides to put himself out of his misery, but apparently, he’s so fat that the house whose ceiling he’s trying to hang out of, crumbles under his weight. Jackpot is relentless and remorseless in its assault of his physicality. Rajendran’s shaved head gets a fair bit of ridicule too. His character is in love with Masha (Revathy, reprising her character from Gulebagavali, and ostensibly, Arangetra Velai), and he gets manipulated by her throughout the film. Ultimately though, he’s seemingly judged by the film to be too ‘unattractive’ to get a woman like Masha. Instead, he gets Anand Raj pretending to be a woman.
Cast: Jyotika, Revathy, Anandraj, Yogi Babu
You could argue this film aims to be a comedy, and that expectations of political correctness limits its horizons. You could argue that it’s almost noble that this film doesn’t care about offending, in pursuit of its goal to make you laugh. But notice the scene in which Masha and her foster daughter, Akshaya (Jyotika), perform a mock namaz before fighting some bad guys (in a dull callback to the scene from Viswaroopam). Notice how in the very next scene, Masha says, “Allah has helped us, even though our namaz was fake.” Jackpot, it seems, is worried about being offensive, but only about religion—not so much about physical appearance. Good humour is original writing full of surprises, and really, what could be more novel and surprising in this day than a refusal to make simplistic jokes targetted at the meek and the bullied? How about taking potshots at the powerful? Jackpot is too much of a bully and a coward to do that.
This film makes references to almost a dozen old Tamil films, including Viswaroopam, Mahanadhi, Kadhalan, Anniyan, Jayam, Nayakan… Sometimes, it borrows a famous line from these films; on other occasions, it looks to recreate a whole scene under the pretext of comedy. These references work neither as odes or parodies. They are just unthinking references, there for no conceivable reason. When Masha gets forced into lying that Akshaya is mentally challenged, she lolls out her tongue and says, “Baba mar gaya…” in a bizarre attempt at mimicry. When a man emerges out of unconsciousnes to realise he’s naked in a public place, a flashback song from Anniyan begins playing. At all times, Vishal Chandrasekhar’s music is an attempt to make the writing funnier than it is, an almost desperate plea to have you laugh. The film’s jokes are the equivalent of self-tickling. Laughter is impossible, and after a point, you begin to feel pain.
Look, it’s great that the film has two women at its centre, played by two successful female actors, and it’s great that they seem to be having a lot of fun. However, this is simply not enough to excuse all the dull referencing, the randomness of the narrative, and the mediocrity of all the humour. There’s an ‘Akshaya paaathram’, a mythological object, in the story, and I liked that a person who tries to duplicate currency gets caught because all the notes share the same serial number. But nothing comes out of it, with the vessel, like Samuthirakani in this film, only making unremarkable fleeting appearances.
This film is tragically long at 140 minutes—tragically, for us. In essence, there is Jyotika looking to shrug off all the rustiness of being only part of message-y films. She seems free in a way she hasn’t been in our cinema for a long time (although not much good comes out of it here). She’s throwing an uppercut at a bad guy, she’s banging a woman’s head against the wall, she’s mimicking Duraisingam (they name her Durai Dragon, which caused me physical pain), she’s pretending to be a dog (don’t ask), and at one point, she’s even doing a Rajinikanth impression, as snakes come her way. “Pa… Pa… Pa…” she goes. By then I was on my knees, hoping she would say, “Padam mudiya pogudhu…” No such luck though.