On a concept level, Jana Gana Mana has a very pertinent premise. It talks about a specific trend that most people ignore in a democracy like ours. Writer Sharis Mohammed wants the viewer to look at the hidden political narrative in almost all the atrocities that are happening in the current political picture. But the writing is so much into the politics that they have to spit out everything they wish to communicate through dialogues. This tendency to play it for the gallery reduces Jana Gana Mana’s cinematic impact.
Saba Mariam, a professor at a reputed university in Karnataka, gets raped and burnt. The issue escalated rapidly as the students of the university demanded justice. Officer Sajjan Kumar is given the charge of the investigation. How he finds the culprits and what all were the repercussions of the arrests is what we see in Jana Gana Mana.
The thought behind the movie is indeed impressive. The elaborate first half of the film ends with the notion that instant justice is not a bad thing—you kind of feel skeptical about this gallery-pleasing attitude. After making the viewer (or trying to make the viewer) clap for the instant justice trope, Sharis Mohammed decides to question that mindset of the public. And that’s where the movie starts to feel interesting. The discrete sparks Jana Gana Mana had during that courtroom debate clearly justify why they decided to make this movie.
I wasn’t a fan of Dijo Jose Antony’s first film Queen. When it comes to Jana Gana Mana, he has clarity about what the film should look like. It is actually the scripting that dilutes its agenda by being overly wordy. There is a scene where Dijo Jose Antony himself appears as a college professor and asks the students to go and protest. And there are so many scenes similar to this in the movie’s first half that fall flat simply because of the loudness. Just like how Salim Kumar’s lawyer character practically saved Queen from being a mighty bore, Aravind Swaminathan, played by Prithviraj, is the script’s tool to make the story more compelling.
Sudeep Elamon’s cinematography helps the movie a lot in depicting the scale. Jakes Bejoy’s background score is thumping, and there were times I felt the film didn’t really live up to the goosebumps created by the score. The editing struggled a lot in the first half to keep us interested because of the abundance of footage. But the second half, which had a better focus, was cut neatly.
If you were skeptical about Prithviraj Sukumaran’s performance after seeing that teaser, you have good news. Even though it was that old-fashioned dialogue-driven character, his usual style was something that was required for the character. The character played by Suraj Venjaramood wasn’t really a major challenge for the actor. Vincy Aloshious as Gowri was extremely good. Mamta Mohandas gets to play the role of Saba Mariam. GM Sundar, Pasupathy Raj, Shari, Dhanya Ananya, Shammi Thilakan, and Ilavarasu are some of the memorable faces in the elaborate list of actors in the film.
The aspiration of Jana Gana Mana is to be a modern-day Rang De Basanti. The caste-based discrimination, the oppression of minorities, the politics of the hyper-nationalistic right-wing, and how all these are working in tandem to maintain political power, etc., are shown in this film. But the lack of a narrative with nuances and subtleties makes Jana Gana Mana a pertinent film that doesn’t attract you on a craft level.
The lack of a narrative with nuances and subtleties makes Jana Gana Mana a pertinent film that doesn't attract you on a craft level.
Green: Recommended Film
Orange: Okay, Watchable, Experimental Films
Red: Not Recommended