Ms Representation: Jyotika hits the 'Jackpot'

This weekly column is a rumination on how women are portrayed in cinema and this week the author writes about Jyotika's role in Jackpot
Ms Representation: Jyotika hits the 'Jackpot'

Does Jyotika age? As Jackpot unfolded, this one thought lingered in my head. She looks terrific and does not take a single misstep in Jackpot. I think she may have finally found her genre. It is not cinema that overtly hammers a ‘message’, but quintessential masala, in which she is unabashedly having fun. And she sure looks like she is having a lot of fun in this film as Akshu.

The dance, the fights, the terrible jokes… And Revathi as Masha (of Arangetra Velai and Gulebaghavali) too seems to have let loose. It is liberating to watch them just occupy all that space and be cheats, not earnest women contorting and fitting themselves into the leftover roles reserved for women, when the writers are done writing the main male roles. 

The film smashes many ‘rules’ out of the park, while having fun, which is what makes it worth a watch. Jyothika is the full-blown hero with stunts and kuthu song-and-dance routines, in Jackpot. She’s in search of an ‘akshaya pathram’ of sorts. Why she’s named Akshu is easy to guess. 

Directors will do well to (please) retire the ‘jokes’ about Yogi Babu’s looks, an entire sequence in the film is dedicated irritatingly and horrifyingly to his character’s self-loathing. While there are ridiculous jokes that never work, Masha and Akshu are spared a lot of it and since this column concerns the women, we will keep our focus on those. This aunt and niece duo lives together and make a living cheating people. Anandraj dresses as a woman, bizarrely enough, and plays his own sister too (she is supposed to look exactly like him).

This man-woman looking alike and a single character dressing up to act as two, the songs, dances, fights, message and morality elements in this film, including its deliberate inclusivity (there are Muslim characters, Jyotika performs a namaz of sorts, and they have Hindu friends, who save them, help them and vice versa), in Jackpot fits writer Jonathan Gil Harris’ examples of what make a Shakespeare-sque masala movie, and why it works.  

No one in this film is straightforward. Everyone is trying to come up the easy way. But to what end is the question? The two heroes of the film Akshu and Masha, in the end, emerge victorious, and then use it for the good, but they make no Robinhood-like claims through the film. Something that happens during the chase for the vessel, makes them sit back and think about why they are this way. A sort of explanation for their unorthodox ‘career’ choices. Until then, they are simply chasing wealth like everyone else. For their own good. 

This lack of pretense until the very end serves the film well and unshackles the burdens usually placed on the women at the forefront of the film to be virtuous. Jyotika isn’t even remotely interested in any man in the film, nor is she ever rescued by one. She is her own hero and Masha’s too at times. Her eyes are on the prize at all times. She may have just hit jackpot with this film, and I hope funnier ones keep coming her way.

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