Films like Jagga Jasoos are the reason I stopped doing letter/number scores on my reviews. The simple fact is that I cannot adequately describe my outlook about the film via a number or a letter. If I were to rate it a 3/5, would that mean the film is as enjoyable as all my other 3/5 reviews? No. Is it more enjoyable? Maybe? Is it better than the other 3/5 films? No. But, what constitutes that grade? What do I take into account for it? and what has my world come to? Too many questions, I’ll do my best to steer away from them.
Jagga Jasoos follows the life of the titular, Jagga Jassos (Detective) as he tries to find his estranged adoptive father in the backdrop of an illegal arms deal. That is the basic plot of the film, which kicks in only after the intermission has come and gone. That is first of the very few but very palpable complications the film has to work through.
I’ll mention an overlooked flaw. If Katrina Kaif’s character is 25 and Jagga is in high school, wouldn’t their romantic inkling be just a tad illegal? Food for thought and let’s move on.
There is something to be admired about the film and how it goes about its business. Taking a line from the screenplay of Kaminey, the film’s titular character has a stammering problem. To alleviate this, he is advised to sing his tête-à-têtes by his adoptive father. The film quickly becomes an out and out musical (not your run-of-the-mill stuff where the film pauses for a flow-killing song) comprising of 29 songs (some of which are masquerading as dialogue) on a whole. These music, lyrics, and visuals seamlessly blend to create a very unique optical and auditory experience.
This is cute, but as we know all too well, too much of a good thing is no good. This narrative style and structure combined with an unexplainable need for excess hamper the flow of the film. A film so vibrant and lively stalls many times as superfluous and overlong sub plots take center stage. These scenes are in the film to source character development but they come off as filler.
There is a saying that the worst sort of scene in any film is one that adds nothing of significance to the plot. Jagga Jasoos does not have those scenes but what it does have are sequences of emptiness punctuated by token bits of plot progression. This phenomenon truly takes a turn for the annoying during the conclusion. This is a segment of the film where bright colors and expertly choreographed extended chase sequences mean nothing as the resolution rings hollow. This is when one truly realizes the smoke and mirrors act the film has going on, even though those exact smoke and mirrors kept the film entertaining for the most part.
However, there is one aspect of the film that I can commend without any contention and that is its fearless leading man, the incomparable Ranbir Kapoor. The man is one of the finest actors working today. He is an actor who stands head and shoulders above the rest of his peers owing to his sheer ability and undeniable talent. His mere presence elevates films from the fiery bowels of mediocrity and makes them watchable. Saurabh Shukla, Saswata (Bob Biswas) Chatterjee and Katrina Kaif do their jobs well but all pale in comparison to the man carrying the film on his seemingly frail shoulders.
The photography, music, performances and ambient sounds that sync with said music showcase Anurag Basu’s talent as a director. Wrangling up the much maligned Pritam and deservedly lauded Amitabh Bhattacharya and letting the two men explore their craft on such a big canvas while trying to concoct a fully engaging near three-hour film is no mean task. Yes, the film does not wholly succeed in all that it is going for but the charm exuding off the screen more than makes up for the film’s shortcomings (again, for the most part). The camerawork and staging of scenes are impeccable. The choreographed line readings and actions are jubilant. I could go on and on.
I could pull a page out of the film’s playbook and be overtly clever while expressing my feelings about this it. But the fact is the more I think about the film, the more divisive I get. There is so much to love but the film has multiple glaring pitfalls. Every fun bit of visual brilliance or acting is completed with a pointless or overlong sequence. It’s a juggling act falling apart at the seams.
I’d read that the film had a troubled production owing to daily script rewrites and multiple edits. A film of this scale needs a steady creative vision which knows when to stay restrained. Even though the restraint is virtually non-existent in this effort, I would watch the hell out of another Jagga Jasoos (make it a franchise). Films like this come around once in a very long time. The film manages to be its own thing while it takes a whole lot of inspiration from multiple avenues of pop culture. It is a joyous celebration of all things cinema even if the final product does not deliver on the promising setup.