Movie Jalsa: Poor Storyline And Half-Baked Characters Make It An Immensely Forgettable Viewing!

Thanks perhaps to the conditional benevolence of the OTT streaming platforms some filmmakers, ostensibly under the pretense of being serious creators, get the rare opportunity to indulge in their experiments or otherwise while always managing to rope in talented actors to create a pre-release hype about their ‘darkly serious dram/thriller’ movies. They always prefer to choose female-centric themes or stories with female protagonists/antagonists, and most of them deliver their favorite ‘emancipation of women’ templates by making the ‘swear-word liberalism’ gender-neutral. They get the much-needed support too from similar or like-minded souls of the mainstream media who praise the movies to the heavens. Fortunately, the Amazon original movie ‘Jalsa’ that released on Prime Video on 18th March, 2022, is totally free of that ‘liberalism’ while still sticking to the female-centric theme with three major roles of women protagonists/antagonists in the movie given to the immensely talented actors Vidya Balan, Shefali Shah and Rohini Hattangadi.


‘Jalsa’ tells the story of a popular TV anchor/journalist, Maya Menon (pivotal role played by Vidya Menon), who is established at the very outset as a fearless and ethical journalist. Although in that episode of her supposedly celebrated interview series she just reclines on the chair gazing smilingly at the restless Judge Gulati (actor-comedian Gurpal Singh totally miscast in that small role) without speaking a word.


Anyway, working late hours after the interview a tired Maya bumps off a girl while driving back home. And, a journalist of the fearless brand sits inside the car paralyzed with fear despite knowing clearly that it was not her fault as the girl came in front of her car out of nowhere, and horror of horrors, decide to escape from the scene leaving the bleeding teenaged girl victim on the road. Hit-and-run drivers are considered as scourges of the modern society and we always curse them in all our righteous indignation. However here in the movie, we’re forced to sit through the explorations of the guilty mind of Maya for the simple reason that the role is played by none other than Vidya Balan. Unfortunately, the viewers lose sympathy with her instantly and scoff at her eventual trembling fits, screams and a final confession at the very end.; and that’s why, we preferred to keep the options of ‘protagonist’ or ‘antagonist’ wide open earlier in this piece.


More agonizingly, the girl’s boyfriend (one of the deadwood performers of the movie) also decides to get paralyzed with a fear of an entirely unknown variety and leaves her bleed to death on the Mumbai Road. The movie director (Suresh Triveni) does not bother to tell us who finally finds her and admits her in a hospital. The victim is revealed to be the daughter of Maya’s maid Ruksana (played powerfully by Shefali Shah).


Maya, of course, decides to tell her secret to her boss or colleague or whatever the next day. As is revealed the boss or colleague or whatever possesses an even dirtier mind and goes on scheming cunningly for her or his own interests, not known so far, after the truth of the victim’s identity comes out. Obviously, the director has little knowledge about the functioning of a TV channel and therefore less about the functionaries involved in management, production, reporting, live feeds and so on. This particular channel office hardly anyone other than Maya, her boss or colleague or whatever and a fat editor are shown.


Of course (with the boredom of repeating), Maya acts in full responsibility taking care of Ruksana’s daughter, admitting her in a good hospital and bearing all expenses. Policemen—the about-to-retire More and the younger Pradeep come in now— and the duo, for reasons very unknown, had a drunken party out in the open inviting dead trouble from the local politicians or mafia or whatever along with a possible fatal blow to More’s unblemished career. So, they are hellbent on doing a cover-up job.  A suspense element is thus introduced.


And then comes the deadpan trainee-reporter Rohini who, for her very existence’s sake, tries to uncover the story tormenting the guilty-minded Maya more with her scary leads. The suspense element gets confounded when we witness Rohini laughing like a hyena while talking on phone to her outstation mother. In the meanwhile, the ‘covering-up and the uncovering’ process sets the ball of lies/bargains rolling and alive as far as the emotional Ruksana and her other deadwood accomplices are concerned.


The deadwood boyfriend has to be beaten up confess the full accident details to Ruksana and then the movie races for a climax that leaves you shattered and without a clue in the end. The web of blackmailing tactics involving Maya’s driver, Maya’s boss or colleague or whatever and the deadpan trainee-reporter also leave you shattered. The director and the writers actually wanted to capture everything black about Mumbai like corruption in police or in police-politician-crime nexus or in journalism or even in poverty, but found themselves with too much loads to do justice to the final delivery.


This writer is too foolish even to understand why the title ‘Jalsa’ (normally meaning fun gathering or musical gathering or just celebrations) is taken, and when he watches the title flashing up on the screen during the scene of the local politician’s birthday celebration out on the roads, he is rendered totally helpless. The write also doesn’t know why at all Maya decides to give her confession to the deadpan reporter during the climax.


Vidya Balan, the powerful actor for her memorable performances in movies like ‘Kahaani’ (2012), ‘The Dirty Picture’ (2013) and ‘Mission Mangal’ (2019-Orbiter Mission to Mars), is a pity in this role as she is unable to breathe life into it. Shefali Shah, with much more motivation to drive on, delivers a more powerful performance as the maid. It’s also refreshing to watch veteran Rohini Hattangadi as Maya’s mother after a long break. Other highlights include the absence of class or religious or caste divides in the movie.



The biggest highlight of ‘Jalsa’ belongs to the child actor, Surya Kasibhatla, who in reality is a victim of cerebral palsy and is from Texas of Indian origin, plays the role of Maya’s differently-abled 10-year-old son Ayush with an endearing and enriching naturalness cum freshness. His role is very well-defined to the credit of the director, and brings out the nuances nicely in the boy’s bond with Ruksana and her son Imaad, his daily chemistry with his grandmother and his protesting outbursts against the wrong acts of his mother. For this foolish and rude writer, the movie belongs only to the duo of Ruksana and Ayush.


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