Amazon Prime Video’s latest release Jalsa is directed by Suresh Triveni and stars Vidya Balan and Shefali Shah in the lead roles. With two powerhouses in one frame, the movie should be a masterpiece. But is it? Read this review of Jalsa to find out.
When an 18-year-old girl is involved in a hit-and-run that leaves her on her deathbed, life takes a turn for the worse for journalist Maya Menon and her cook, Ruksana. Maya has built her entire career on her honesty and takes much pride in it. But when she is the one making a fatal error, where does it leave her and her principles?
After a nightcap, a tired and sleepy Maya drives back home from work. Unfortunately for her, she ends up hitting a young girl and flees the scene. This is where Maya’s conflict between honesty and survival starts.
From the very first shot since Maya hits the girl, her moral ambiguity starts. You see her remove her seatbelt and open the door to go check, but as soon as she sees someone riding past her on a bike, she fearfully closes the door. And eventually flees the scene. It’s the little actions that show how affected Maya is by the incident. The shaking hands, the sheen of perspiration on her face, jerky body movements, a panicked look. Vidya Balan proves once again why she is considered one of the best actors in the Indian film industry.
While Maya wars with guilt and remorse, Ruksana is caught in a turmoil of helplessness and anger. Maya’s inability to come clean to at least Ruksana widens the chasm between the two. There is never a verbal confrontation between the two and that’s where the brilliance of Jalsa lies.
The incident also brings forth the class disparity between the two women. While many may give the token speech of treating their help as a family member, their true colours come to light under pressure. For all intents and purposes, Ruksana is family. The way she dotes on Maya’s differently-abled son and takes care of the household is nothing short of a mother’s love and affection. It’s clearly visible that Ayush and Ruksana have a close bond. But when tragedy strikes, there is a stark contrast in how Ayush approaches Ruksana and how Maya does it.
Triveni should be applauded for adding Surya Kasibhatla to the star cast as the physically challenged Ayush. Rookie journalist Rohini George, played by Vidhatri Bandi, is also a delightful addition to the movie. While the audience knows the truth from the very beginning, Rohini becomes the medium through which the reality behind the accident is unravelled.
Jalsa is in no way a rushed movie. However, it gets painfully slow and teeters on the edge of boring at times. The movie also seems to want to talk about too many things at once–the moral uprightness of journalists, the class divide, the corruption in the police force, and even the ugly power of money.
A Vidya Balan and Shefali Shah movie definitely wouldn’t fail on the performance front. And Jalsa doesn’t disappoint. Jalsa is all about human emotions and the war within everyone. Both Vidya Balan and Shefali Shah portray those warring emotions brilliantly. At the end of the day, Jalsa shows how people are not black and white. Even seemingly good people are capable of terrible deeds, driven by a barrage of emotions.
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