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No One Killed Jessica

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Hindi, Drama, 2011, Color





New Delhi, 1999. The guns at Kargil are still blazing when another one goes off, this time in the nation's capital. Jessica, a young attractive model trying her hand at bartending, is shot dead at a celebrity party. Her crime - refusing to serve a drink after closing hours! The culprit Manish, son of a prominent politician, inebriated by a deadly cocktail of alcohol and a sense of entitlement, pulls the trigger in a fit of rage. With 300 of Delhi's swish set present at the party, many of whom are witnesses to the murder, Manish looks all set to go to the gallows. Except, that it doesn't quite turn out that way! Now two women, Jessica's sister, Sabrina (Vidya Balan) and the feisty TV reporter, Meera (Rani Mukherji) will have to drum up every resource at their disposal to outwit Manish at his own game, if the truth is to have any chance of prevailing over money and political clout.



Seldom in recent times has an indie-esque film been the object of such startling pre-release hype thanks to a knockout promo with Amit Trivedi’s grungy notes, Raj Kumar Gupta’s sharp dialogue, and kickass publicity design. The first show in a city multiplex had more people than the numbers of Dabangg and Tees Maar Khan combined. And I’ll say this now – the audience broke out in spontaneous applause at the end of it.

However.

What can only now be labeled as the ‘Dabangg syndrome’, all the high points in the promo are only the ones you see in the film. The material is all there. It has been shot. But it just does not come together like the taut courtroom drama like it’s supposed to, nor does it pause to reflect enough at the frustration, anguish, and desperation of the Lal family. This formula, that Hollywood has cracked so splendidly, is sparingly applied in NOKJ. Scenes do not flow into each other seamlessly (blame a lack of creative transitions), there are tons of repetition (the first time Rani Mukherji openly curses, it’s effective; the second time, cheeky; the third, just downright tiresome and forced), and if there one key problem with NOKJ, it’s that there is a damnable lack of tension.

The film seems to be simply telling a story we already know, not creatively retelling it. And here is where Gupta, the screenwriter falters. As a director he fares better – there are some intelligent and inventive moments – take for example the bit where Vidya Balan almost bumps into an elephant when lost in thought, the father checking if it’s okay to take the place offered by the politician in the courthouse, and nearly all of Rani Mukherji’s steadicam moments. Still the film leaves you feeling it was all just a big montage. The courtroom scenes border on cringe-worthy, the courtroom itself resembles a large hall. If you’re fictionalizing an already dramatic true story, go the whole nine yards, yes?

Casting is another huge issue. Besides the big names, Gupta makes an amateur mistake of handing out key roles (not necessarily screen time) to bad actors. Or perhaps it’s a case of inappropriate casting. Either way, the lawyer, the father, the killer, and the mothers affect the film negatively and take it down a few notches. Vidya Balan’s deliberately overstated costume design works against the narrative too. Okay, we get that she is not the glam type, but seriously, allow her to convey this through her skill rather than dress her up in curtains all the time.

Amit Trivedi’s music is just plain brilliant and lifts the film on every occasion. Other technical departments do an adequate job with and leave no rough edges. The newsroom scenes are especially well photographed. Of the two leads, Rani Mukherji outshines Vidya Balan, though a lot can be attributed to the contrasting roles they play. She livens up the screen every time she’s on and carries herself with the kind of pizzazz that few other actors would’ve been able to pull off. And while the character is over-the-top, the sheer confidence of the actor makes this entirely likable. This, coming from someone who’s never liked any of her work. Balan tries her best to wallow in self-pity but in a many moments, it seems overdone and faux. Rajesh Sharma as the crooked cop with a conscience is the only other actor who deserves mention.

No One Killed Jessica, while it’s got its moments, fails to elicit the outrage at the establishment you’d expect given the details of the case. It is inconsistently directed, has weak performances working against it and fails to live up to the hype.


Upperstall review by: filmbear





 

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