ENTERTAINMENT

Ranbir Kapoor Deserves Much Better Than The Pretty But Hollow 'Jagga Jasoos'

You need a jasoos to find the script.

14/07/2017 9:41 PM IST | Updated 14/07/2017 10:08 PM IST
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Let's begin with a moment's silence for journalists. And if you happen to be a woman, Bengali and a journalist, you can take that moment to silently walk to the nearest wall and bang your head against it. I can assure you that'd be less painful than trying to understand how Katrina Kaif's character -- a journalist called Shruti Sengupta -- breaks stories about international illegal arms mafia. Because the only brief that seems to have been given to the writer who sketched the character was: "She looks like she has forgotten her ATM PIN."

But let's not assume that her ineptitude is incidental. That it is, you know, the case of just another Bollywood writer scribbling '5 songs and 17 outfit changes' on the page that should have had a real human-like character. It is important that Shruti's talents are as visible as chicken on Air India's menu, because how else will Jagga turn out to be Jasoos extraordinaire? I mean, the same could have been achieved with a taut script, and making sure the story was not turning into something like congealed Maggi -- where you can't pick a single strand out -- but that would be a lot of work. Instead, it was easier to make Shruti a walking a disaster who needs to be constantly rescued by Jagga, thereby underlining his extraordinary everything.

Which brings us to Jagga. Jagga is a high schooler in Manipur. He looks like the 30-something that Ranbir Kapoor is but, excuse me, which was the last Hindi film you paid to watch that didn't have a Kapoor, Khan or suchlike, haan? So yeah, let's be a little practical and suspend our disbelief -- it shouldn't be very difficult, you live in a country where police chase comedians for cracking jokes.

It is important that Shruti's talents are as visible as chicken on Air India's menu, because how else will Jagga turn out to be Jasoos extraordinaire?

So, back to Jagga. He was an orphan who stammered and had spent the first few years of his life in the ground-floor of a hospital. One day he spots a man jumping off a coal train and drags him to the hospital. This is Tutti Futti, a middle-aged Bengali man who is on the run from something. Jagga and Tutti Futti complete each other like a paashbalish (bolster) completes a Bengali person after a fish-and-rice lunch. This newly-minted 'father-son duo' embark on their happily ever-after, but enter Sinha, a man who Tutti Futti seems to be running away from. The latter deposits Jagga into a residential school and disappears. From that point, Tutti Futti becomes an absentee father and Google for Jagga -- who apparently learns all his life skills from the video tapes his father sends from secret locations each year.

Enter Shruti, the aforementioned journalist, who mirrors Tutti Futti. No, not physically, but in the way bad luck seems to follow her as it followed Tutti Futti. She basically falls flat on her face and on her head and in various other postures from various things -- road dividers, stairs, balconies. Of course, to love-starved orphan Jagga, she reminds him of his father. YEAH. Are you going, 'AWW, NO'? Go ahead.

I'll give you a moment to scoop back your just-scattered brains.

Okay, done?

Yeah, so then, all hell breaks lose. Like it should if, say, Arvind Kejriwal was sent to judge a reality singing talent show. All Shruti does is to get into trouble and more trouble so Jagga -- a high schooler -- can keep on saving her from getting herself killed.

She basically falls flat on her face and on her head and in various other postures from various things -- road dividers, stairs, balconies

Then there's a whole lot of stuff about illegal arms trade, the Purulia arms drop and stuff, but they're all as coherently and deftly narrated as facts about extra-terrestrial life in Koi Mil Gaya.

To repeat a cliche, there is no one better than Ranbir Kapoor to play someone like Jagga and it is also true Ranbir Kapoor has played Jagga way too many times. How well Kapoor can play a person like Jagga will probably be evident each time you have to blink back a tear as, aghast by his father's disappearance, Jagga tries to get a word out of his mouth and fails. This despite the fact that the story is hurtling towards complete incoherence at the pace of an SUV on Delhi's streets after 10 pm. It is also these scenes that make you furious—just how difficult is it to produce a script that an actor like him can pour his heart into? In fact, some of the scenes where Kapoor and Kaif are walking across rice fields are ridiculously reminiscent of Kapoor and Priyanka Chopra walking across fields in Barfi.

Here, give Kapoor a virtual hug and move on.

Who do we have now? Katrina Kaif—she whose expressions are like Uber drivers in India, never at the right place at the right time. She has seen a boyfriend get shot in front of her, a source get killed while sitting beside her, she has ended up in mafia boss' lair and almost gotten killed, and yet, the most compelling expression she can conjure at best says: "OMG, is this paneer biryani?"

Just how difficult is it to produce a script that an actor like him can pour his heart into?

You cannot help wonder what the film would have felt like had Anurag Basu given Ranbir Kapoor more screen-time with Saswata Chatterjee instead. The bits in the first half starring Chatterjee and young Jagga are like biting into a melty chocolate chip in a brownie. Chatterjee and Kapoor get no more than a few seconds together and you literally want to cling to those few moments like they are the last 5% of your phone battery when you're out. Watching Chatterjee emote is like watching a rocket burst into sprinklers—making you wonder what he could bring to the table together with Ranbir.

Often the film looks like a perfectly curated series of Instagram filters. With some parts of the first half—which actually looks like a fairly convincing musical—Jagga Jasoos began with the promise of being magical. It doesn't pretend to cover-up the fact that it is deeply inspired by Tintin. It throws in a word my mother, like almost any Bengali mother, has used all my childhood to indicate how we must read a history text before an exam—agapastala. It usually meant some version of top-to-bottom or beginning-to-end. It even mentions "Shundi", that imaginary place in Satyajit Roy's Hirak Rajar Deshe, which makes most non-resident Bengalis homesick and crave 'monda mithai' (sweets). Despite Bengali nostalgia served in the most luscious frames on silver screen, Jagga Jasoos made me crave a Gelusil, to be honest. So yeah, best of luck if the preceding couple of sentences didn't have a single italicised word you can relate to.

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