I was genuinely excited when I saw the teaser of the new Sony LIV original series JL50. The excitement got increased when the trailer made it clear that the aim is to tell us a time travel story. But the series on the whole is an extremely basic version of all the time travel concepts we have seen through many other movies/series’ that have dealt with this idea. JL50 is recommendable only for those people who have never seen anything related to time travel.
The story here is set around a plane that gets crashed somewhere in West Bengal. Officer Shanthanu is in charge of the investigation and he finds out that the plane they have found, JL50, went missing in 1984. The two survivors of this plane crash looked exactly like how they were 35 years ago. This started to puzzle Shanthanu who was convinced that this is some major setup. The investigation of Shanathanu to solve this baffling mystery is the plot of Shailender Vyas’ JL50.
First of all, I don’t really think they should have gone for the series format. A 4 episode series with an average duration of 30 minutes per episode feels a bit awkward. And this is a story that doesn’t have much depth or nuances, the two factors that usually force content creators to opt for the series format. Coming to JL50, the more it goes towards the idea of being a time travel story I found the staging becoming extremely simplistic with broad strokes. I almost hoped Shanthanu will come up with something that would break the time travel theory. The shadowy visuals, grand aerial shots, etc are doing the mood-building part really well. But that basic feel in the time travel concept sticks out like a humongous sore thumb and I felt hugely disappointed the way the plot turned out to be, considering how promising the promos were.
The writing is the weak link in Shailender Vyas’ JL50. We have seen the implementation of the time travel hypothesis in movies like Interstellar and series’ like Dark. Even the Tamil comedy Indru Nettru Naalai (I know it’s not an apt comparison) explored the concept in a way that would create curiosity. But here we end up expecting more clarity in writing. They are talking about one Project A in the series, which we are given no info about, apart from the vague blueprint of a plane. A lot of things in the time travel episode don’t feel coherent. The original vibe we got in the trailer gets compromised and to add insult to injury the visual effects looked shabby.
Abhay Deol plays the role of Shantanu here. The cynicism in his character has a valid reason due to a lot of the personal stuff that’s happening in the backdrop. But that character being so numb even after something surreal happening felt like a portrayal that I couldn’t understand. Ritika Anand as Bihu Ghosh, the pilot was a bit overly dramatic in her performance. Pankaj Kapur and Piyush Mishra as the time travel obsessed scientists played their part neatly even though the writing wasn’t giving enough material for us to understand their excitement. Rajesh Sharma is pretty much wasted in a character that doesn’t really contribute to the narrative.
I am not really complaining about the scale here. Demanding a visual spectacle like an Interstellar for a moderate budget Indian TV series is an unreasonable demand. But exploring something new in the established genre that can give you some excitement doesn’t really need scale. Dark worked big time for everyone not because of the scale, it was largely because of the concept. JL50 as a time travel saga feels very abstract and rushed through.
JL50 as a time travel saga feels very abstract and rushed through. It is recommendable only for those people who have never seen anything related to time travel.
Green: Recommended Film
Orange: Okay, Watchable, Experimental Films
Red: Not Recommended