No One Killed Jessica – Reviewed by Kamran Jawaid

No One Killed Jessica was reviewed in iMAGES on Sunday, Sunday January 16 2011. Below is the unedited version with a link to the printed version at the end of the post.

No One Killed Jessica - Blog

Yay to the Media! Sansani It Is!

By Mohammad Kamran Jawaid

Seconds before the intermission in “No One Killed Jessica”, the title – and the Newspaper headline, which set off the idea of the movie – itself makes a cameo. By then, I thought the movie was near done. How wrong I was!

“Jessica” is a typical against-the-corrupt-system drama flaunting stiff, unmotivated dialogues. The film is based on the real-life murder of Jessica Lall, and a trial that took a lot of nosedives and dead-ends with an eventual happy ending eight years later thanks to constant media badgering. This is a tale of sensationalism – or sansani – done right.

It all begins with a loud, gratuitous and overlong history lesson narrated by Meera Gaity – Rani Mukerjee, appropriately thought for, but eventually ill-fitting, the role.

Meera is an emblematic television news-hound at the peak of her vertically inclined career. She’s arrogant, smokes (almost every woman in media does that), bullies and ultimately has her way with the story. And she routinely calls herself a “bitch” every other scene in case we forget (at one point her house-servant dubs the gaali in Hindi, for our convenience).

In one early scene, Meera, just out of Kargil, shuts up a loud mouthed jerk on a plane with a big-fat, mispronounced cuss-word. Cussing in Urdu/Hindi does not suit Ms. Mukerjee, and so the rest of the profanity is reserved to English (I don’t know if it sounds better or that people usually do prefer cussing at each other in English…whatever).

For the first-half Meera, is kept to an occasional world-shattering crisis or a walk-through where she growls at the younger-set of reporters. She isn’t interested in Jessica’s case, simply because she sees no personal interest. In that time, we focus on Sabrina – Vidya Balan (almost always a treasure) – Jessica’s elder, mousy sister who hides behind big, unfashionable specs.

Sabrina is in a fix. She has to run-down Jessica’s eyewitness to make sure they stick to their testimony and then contend with an unchallenging, simple father (Yogendra Tikku) and her constantly hollering mother (Geeta Sudan).

No One Killed Jessica Poster 1

Jessica was murdered by a politician’s son over a drink he couldn’t get, in front of 300 witnesses. If it sounds like an open-and-shut case, then think again (we wouldn’t have this movie if it were that easy). Eyewitnesses are bought at a Crore, each. Those who do nod in favor of justice, squirm away at the trail – a pivotal, if clichéd highlight in this or any other film of the sort.

The trail itself is a mockery pulled off in the most ludicrous fashion. The problem is, the director didn’t mean it to be ludicrous; or uninspiring.

For an independent-minded Bollywood production, primed as a film with a noteworthy message – and possibly film fraternity awards – one is bound to ask a few, basic, proverbial questions: Why are the characters so blandly written? Why don’t we feel any human connection? What makes Meera or Sabrina tick? Amidst the cross-cutting narrative, and a screenplay that tries too hard, we never get to know that answer. Everything is self-evident, automatic and unappealing. Almost as if it’s willed to happen at the behest of the screenwriter.

Ms. Balan, her voice unemotional and monotone with hair neatly combed into a clip understands Sabrina well. Like Ms. Mukerjee, her scintillating talent is kept in check by the direction.

“No One Killed Jessica” is directed and written by Raj Kumar Gupta, whose last movie, “Aamir” – about an unwilling NRI (Rajeev Khandelwal) who is blackmailed into planting a bomb that will lead to intersect-violence – sat me down from the moment I accidentally flicked it on the telly.

For “Jessica”, Mr. Gupta gets overwhelmed by the orthodoxy of independent cinema. He shoulder-mounts the camera, color-grades his film in blue and green at night-shots and inserts long, pointless passages of wearisome, self-gratifying narrations that are coupled with longer corridor camera walk-through’s – a professed sign that this is not a commercial film.

At the end of the movie, we see a long, dwindling set-up that has the awaam, who helped re-Marshall the case back into the court, remembering Jessica. How much more clichéd can it get? Oh wait, we see Jessica, happy in her carefree days, smiling at the camera as an after-thought. Damn that cliché!

Released by UTV Spotboy. Produced by Ronnie Screwvala. “No One Killed Jessica” features cussing and the power of sansani-powered media dogging the right story for a change.

The published version can be found at:

http://www.dawn.com/2011/01/16/the-ticket-yay-to-the-media.html

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