By: Sonia Chopra
Critic's Rating: 17/5
Friday 6 November 2009
Neil Nitin Mukesh, Mugdha Godse, Manoj Bajpai, Arya Babbar, Chetan Pandit
We, as an audience have seen much better, and in films that don?t claim to show us the jailed life. The few portions set inside a prison in Ek Haseena Thi made your blood curdle, as did the scenes in Teen Deewarein. In Gumrah, when Sridevi?s lover wrongly gets her embroiled in a drug case, you feel her helplessness and fear. In Shawshank Redemption you were immersed in the characters? lives and valued their bonding.
Madhur Bhandarkar?s Jail is a sanitised version of the above where marketing professional Parag Dixit (Neil Nitin Mukesh) gets mistakenly entangled in a drug trafficking case, enters prison and quickly makes friends with a poet, an astrologer, a don and so on.
The usual clich?s abound right from corrupt cops to the uncrowned jailking to the harmless convicts wrongly sentenced. At no point though, you feel for the characters or are interested in their story. The story soon starts the never-ending journey of insensitive lawyers, refusal of bails and getting used to jail life. You desperately want to feel the character?s angst, but his sorrow appears too distant. Perhaps it?s the jail setting that?s too clean to appear plausible.
All we see, as part of Parag?s tribulations in the jail, is sleeping in an overcrowded room and eating bland food. In a place full of twisted characters acquitted of heinous crimes, everyone strangely lives like a happy family and two murderers even tell us their emotional story in flashback. Other characters are picked up from life like a jail inmate who ran down six people after a night of partying and an elderly philanthropist arrested for having links with the Naxalite movement.
We also don?t get a real glimpse of Parag?s family who is serving a sentence of their own. Mother and girlfriend are seen in lawyer chambers or the courtroom or mouthing inane dialogues on meeting Parag. After spending several days in jail and meeting him for the first time, Parag?s mother asks this rather unfit question ?beta, tu theek hai na (are you alright, son?). Then on, we see the mother crying dispassionately and the girlfriend, supportive as always, shedding a couple of tears herself. Other bits of unreasonable dialogue happen when the girlfriend asks the poor bloke stuck in a prison ? ?Do you miss me??
Background music adds to the woes. Bang in the middle of the story, we are subjected to Sayali Bhagat doing a bar dance number.
After heartfelt performances in Johhny Gaddar and New York, Neil Nitin Mukesh gives a below-par rendering of a character that could have been remarkably complex; we rarely connect with the hurt, desperation and rage of his character. We miss Manoj Bajpai?s intensity in his role as Parag?s protective mentor. Supporting cast does all right in the limited scope offered to them.
Jail lacks the realistic bite of other prison films and also falls short of connecting the audience to the character?s angst. The title and writer-director Madhur Bhandarkar?s credentials promise far more than what Jail delivers.
Verdict: Two stars