Driver Jamuna Movie Review: The Aishwarya Rajesh-starrer is all over the place all at once
The earnestness of the filmmaker's vision probably withered away due to a lack of focussed writing and prosaic filmmaking techniques
There are zillions of gender-biased stereotypes that continue to be perpetrated for decades together. Two of the most common and archaic labels are — Women can't read maps, and women are bad drivers — and as always, the onus is put on women to break these stereotypes. The latest attempt to break the aforementioned stereotype is driver Jamuna, the titular character in Aishwarya Rajesh's latest. She not only is a walking-talking city route map but can also do a 360-degree skid like a pro.
Cast: Aishwarya Rajesh, Aadukalam Naren, Kavitha Bharathi, Sriranjini, Abhishek Kumar
Okay, Driver Jamuna is not a proclamation that women are good drivers, but the point is it doesn't have to be spelt out so either. Director Kinslin normalising women cab drivers and not harping on the novelty of it is in itself a move in the right direction. Interestingly, Kinslin's previous film, Vathikuchi (2013), also featured a driver at the centre of things. If Vathikuchi was about an auto driver, Driver Jamuna follows a cab driver who takes up this male-dominated profession after her father passes away. Yes, we have father sentiment scenes, but they just come as flashes, and don't really tug at our emotional chords. Anyway, one of the interesting aspects of Driver Jamuna is that the story transpires in less than 2 hours, and this is reflected in the film's runtime too.
Driver Jamuna, which aims to be an edge-of-the-seat thriller, revolves around Jamuna, who is inadvertently caught in a quagmire after a bunch of henchmen become her cab passengers. How she escapes from the mess forms the rest of the story. However, it isn't a simple ride from start to finish. The narrative takes us to various places where the henchmen plot with their colleagues to plan the murder of ex-MLA Maragathavel (Aadukalam Naren).
In the initial few minutes, we are introduced to Jamuna, her agnostic ideology, and her paralysed mother (a terrific Sivaranjini). As the film progresses, the non-linear narrative does get cumbersome in places. We see random people popping in and out of the narrative with no real impact. Their humdrum performances and the far-fetched cat-and-mouse chases don't help either. This randomness not only confuses, but it also becomes tiresome to follow all the characters and their motives.
However, when the film does not incite the intended core emotions, the only respite is watching stand-up comedian Abhishek Kumar and his funny-no-brainers. Abhishek transports his cheerful social media vibe to the big screens even if his character has a very limited scope. His presence is reminiscent of those Tamil films from the not-so-future past where we had separate comedy tracks that existed for no rhyme or reason except to elicit a few laughs.
Similarly, Aishwarya's honest efforts to elevate this film reflects in many places. But there are some portions in which her performance is just peripheral, and a few driving sequences, enhanced by VFX, feel too basic and unreal.
As far as the writing is concerned, the filmmaker has placed a few suspense elements and knots throughout the film. And these come together with a bang in the climax, which has an intriguing twist. It was surely the best part of the film, which tests our patience before getting there. This twist reflects the earnestness of the filmmaker's vision, which probably withered away due to a lack of focussed writing and prosaic filmmaking techniques.
Right from Karma, the angst of an underprivileged woman, to politics, power, and other themes, Driver Jamuna actually touches upon a myriad of topics. However, with all of them, including the protagonist's want being served as a mega-revelation in the climax, it all feels overwhelming.
If only there had been an inventive execution and a gripping narrative, Driver Jamuna could have driven past mediocrity and manoeuvered itself from the tight corner of being just another 'women-centric film.' If only.