Thursday, January 13, 2011

No One Killed Jessica

Unless you've been hibernating or are snowed in at Alamo, Texas you'll know that 'No One Killed Jessica' is based on the Jessica Lal murder case. The film stars Vidya Balan as Sabrina Lal (Jessica's sister who fought relentlessly for justice in the case) and Rani Mukerji as the abuse-spouting hard-as-nails high-flying journalist who takes on the mantle of getting justice to the bereaved family.

For those unfamiliar with the case, Jessica Lal was a model who was shot at a nightclub in Delhi because she refused to serve a drink to the son of a politician after closing hours. It was supposed to be an open-and-shut case due to the large number of witnesses, but during the police investigation the 300 people present at the club that night all claimed to have left before the incident happened, and the 7 witnesses turned hostile presumably under threat from the politician, resulting in a lack of evidence against the accused and he getting acquited. What followed was a public and media furore against the judiciary, the case was re-opened and the murderer was finally convicted.

'No One Killed Jessica' highlights the media's role in the re-opening of the case. It is a mix of fact and fiction but for the most part, it sticks to events as they happened.

The problem with the movie lies in Raj Kumar Gupta's direction. It alternates between over-dramatization, trying very hard to be cool and falling prey to stereotypes.

The other problem is the way the characters have been written. Rani Mukerji's character has all the stereotypes of a journalist - smoking, abusing etc. She insists on calling herself a bitch, and ends up looking like she's desperate to be considered "cool". Perhaps the director was referring to that breed of women who casually refer to themselves as bitches, but maybe he doesn't understand that those women aren't doing it to prove a point. Similarly there is no rhyme or reason for the make-out scene between Rani and whats-his-face. It appears out of nowhere and makes no contribution to the story whatsoever.

Vidya Balan too is let down by her styling. I didn't think Sabyasachi could disappoint but I'm guessing he was tied by the brief. Agreed, the idea was to show Sabrina as a regular girl who suddenly finds herself battling the corrupt, monolithic political system of India, but she need not have been dressed in dowdy pants and oversized men's shirts. Sabrina Lal was a Delhi girl, and regular Delhi girls surely don't dress like that. Showing her as a normal jeans and t-shirt wearing young girl would have made the audience empathize with her character more, I think.

In terms of acting, both Rani and Vidya are competent but I didn't find either extraordinary. Amit Trivedi gives cutting edge music once again.

If I had to sum up 'No One Killed Jessica' in one line, I'd say it could have been much better. As it is it lacks impact, restrained by the limited vision of its director Raj Kumar Gupta and his lack of courage to rise against stereotypes. I must give him a shout out for one thing though - the age spots on Rani Mukerji's face are very visible throughout the movie. No attempts have been made to hide it. I'm not sure if they're a part of her character, but if they're for real then it's good to see Bollywood finally mature.


Spike said...

hmmm - thats 2 of rani's movies getting not good reviews (i'm refering to the one with sahid kapoor)

with a powerhouse acting cast like rani and vidya, i'd have hoped for a better movie going by the review, not seen the movie, but have heard similar things from my friends too about it.

Spike said...

for follow up comments

Scarlett said...

@Spike - As I said, the problem isn't with the acting. It's with the direction. The same script in the hands of Rakesh Mehra or Madhur Bhandarkar would've been explosive!