What to do when one is moved by the visual splendor of a film, but not by the film itself? It’s like reading beautifully constructed sentences that work on their own, but don’t quite come together as a cohesive capsule.
That is the case with Jagga Jasoos— a film with flowers everywhere: in the background, on curtains, heck, even a car is attacked with flower pots, and in this writer’s favourite visual, has ducks frolicking about in a bathtub; the said tub placed in the middle of a bloom-laden garden.
You soak in these glorious quirks— visuals of exotic places, animals that always seem to be observing, and other wonderful things, also people who don’t talk but in rhyme they sing.
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But then you also have characters that have the mandatory backstory, in fact they may even be overwritten, but without layers. So our fumbling quasi-detective Jagga (Ranbir Kapoor) is heroic enough to escape from hardened criminals in a whiff, and he manages to escape every time and very easily. He does that while also repeatedly rescuing the bumbling journalist (Katrina Kaif) who is basically portrayed as an air-head with a propensity to falling down all the time. She constantly proclaims, “I can take care of myself” only to have another fall. Basically this is a damsel in constant distress and even needs our stuttering hero to tie her shoe-laces.
The film is about Jagga and two people in his life who are “bad-lucky”. One he loses due to this ‘bad-luckiness’, and the other helps him on his journey. The film folds in a touching father-son equation combined with a world peace message.
Through the film, we are wowed several times by what we see, while struggling to keep up with the story that begins to seem indulgent. It’s not that the film is entirely incapable of moving you - there are many moments that one cherishes, especially between Jagga and his father. The finale of the film makes you want to cheer, and you would have, if the film hadn’t worn you down by then.
Anurag Basu is an aesthete – he spins the craft, technique and visual wizardry like no one else, even adding that Wes Anderson-esque quirk element. The film can be admired just for Basu and cinematographer Ravi Varman’s work. (Incidentally, Varman received a congratulatory message from Anderson for Jagga Jasoos’s trailer.)
Ranbir Kapoor as the central protagonist remains in the spotlight, and he is astute but predictable as Jagga, repeating pretty much his Barfi! act.
There are several films that are visually magnificent, but they just don’t move you otherwise. One wonders how that happens. For one, most of these films invest efforts only in the lead hero’s character.
The actress usually plays the “love-support”— at best, she gets to be bumbling, tumbling and maybe get a quirk or two.
‘Jagga…’ is a far more accomplished film, but the recent Mohenjo Daro comes to mind. Again lavishly mounted, superb visuals, great production design, A-list star (Hrithik Roshan), but all that is lost on the viewer as the story didn’t move them. Ditto films like Mirzya, Fitoor and Bombay Velvet.
‘Jagga…’ is lovingly shot, is wonderfully quirky and mad, but loses its essence when it becomes self-indulgent, clichéd, and meanders about in a confusing maze. Jagga Jasoos is a film that’s like a teenager. This age still has the delightful innocence of a child, but feels compelled to act like an adult, thereby losing what’s unique about it in the first place. And like most teenagers, the film too would shine, if all it did was stick to its authentic core.