Jalsa, the new Suresh Triveni film, manages to create a conflict that looks extremely layered. The first 40 minutes of the movie are so gripping in terms of intensity that I didn’t even bother looking at the film’s duration. But post that, we see Vidya Balan’s Maya Menon trying to deal with the repercussions of her action. One could see the script trying to make it difficult for her. Still, it can’t really make that hurdle blend in with the tension in the atmosphere. Jalsa wants to depict moral dilemma and class divide in the backdrop of a thriller. But after a point, the film struggles to maintain the intrigue factor.
Maya Menon is a celebrated journalist in the online media, and she hosts a show with a significant fan-following. Ruksana is her maid who takes care of Maya’s kid. One day, Ruksana’s daughter Alia gets severely injured in a hit-and-run case. This event causes some major trouble for Maya Menon. How she deals with the whole thing and how her equation with Ruksana changes due to this incident is what we see in Jalsa.
Suresh Triveni has done a terrific job in creating curiosity in viewers’ minds and pulling them into the film. The way the film approaches the moment where Alia gets hit by a car and the panic that follows is brilliant. After this, the task ahead of the writing team is to create reasons that would make things difficult for the guilty. It also needs to convince the viewer why the police weren’t so interested in the case. Where the movie fumbles, in my opinion, was in those areas. The hurdles it threw at the guilty and the reasons it created were not that solid.
We are interested in the film till the end because of the scintillating performance by the two pillars of the film, Vidya Balan and Shefali Shah. Vidya Balan as the boss lady dealing with mental trauma, is excellent. Shefali Shah, on the other hand, as the likable Ruksana who goes through the turmoil of having to see her daughter in a horrifying situation, is just brilliant. A lot of the incompleteness in writing gets a lot of help from these two performers. Rohini Hattangadi plays the cool grandmother. Surya Kasibhatla, Mohammed Iqbal Khan, Manav Kaul, etc., are the other major names in the cast. I have to say, Vidhatri Bandi with that Hindi accent was almost like those stereotypical caricaturish South Indian characters you used to see in Hindi films.
Suresh Triveni knows to maintain the emotional pitch of scenes. The creative choices he takes for specific sequences are also quite smart. There is a sequence where Maya loses it entirely and calls her son a weirdo. And the decision to mute the dialogues had a more significant impact. It is actually the writing that fumbles after a point. A Parasite-like social commentary about the power hierarchy is a theme of this thriller. But Triveni and his co-writer Prajwal Chandrasekhar are not so subtle about it. Like I already said, the subplots in the film that try to put Maya in a spot of bother and why the police are not making an effort, etc., are not shown convincingly. And they don’t really give us an insight into some major characters, and it becomes difficult for the viewer to look at characters in an empathetic way. Saurabh Goswami’s cinematography effectively depicted the eeriness in the atmosphere and the characters’ dilemmas.
The performances are the strong points of Suresh Triveni’s Jalsa. Both Vidya Balan and Shefali Shah seem to have created a back story for the characters in their head, which sadly didn’t reflect in the writing of the movie. If emotional and moral predicament-driven stories have excited you, Jalsa will feel like an interesting watch that needs a bit more fine-tuning.
If emotional and moral predicament-driven stories have excited you, Jalsa will feel like an interesting watch that needed a bit more fine-tuning.
Green: Recommended Film
Orange: Okay, Watchable, Experimental Films
Red: Not Recommended