Friday, July 21, 2017

Movie watching thoughts: Jagga Jasoos

I think it's fair to say I'm a  very fussy movie goer. I'm also a very lazy movie goer. Which means that unless it's a Marvel Cinematic Universe movie, or an animated Disney or Pixar movie, I only go for movies that meet at least two or three of the following criteria:
  • Has a storyline I think I'll enjoy - which also means not too gruesome or grim
  • Has a cast I like and for the most part approve of, and/or a director or writer I'm familiar with or like
  • Has good reviews by people I trust - both in terms of film critics and people I know
  • Has trailers and/or music I enjoyed
So then, Jagga Jasoos. I was not impressed by the trailer, and I hadn't heard any of the music. But I think Ranbir Kapoor is a decent actor; even if I'm not a huge fan, I've enjoyed some of his movies. Katrina Kaif is never going to be a great actress, but I liked her in New York and Rajneeti, so she's not a dealbreaker. Of the movies by Anurag Basu I've actually seen, I loved Life in a Metro and Barfi, and hated Kites, so there was a 50-50 chance on this movie.

The thing is, of the film critics I follow, everyone seemed to love it. My only pause for caution was when Rajyasree Sen on Newslaundry's podcast said she didn't like it, but then I got very irritated by things she said later in the podcast, and I think I just forgot what she said about this movie. And you know, I saw comparisons to Tintin, and heard there were references to Feluda and Sherlock, and figured why not.

But pretty much two minutes into the movie, I knew I had made a terrible, terrible mistake. And I would caution you about spoilers, but you guys, you should NOT see this movie, so feel free to just read on.

Let's start with the fact that they decided to make this a musical. And not a musical as in a Bollywood musical where a song plays every ten minutes. No, no, here the dialogue is in song approximately 85% of the time. And there is a reason for it, you guys. Ranbir's character - Jagga - stutters. And can only speak without stuttering if he speaks in song. So he sings. Constantly.

To be fair, when Katrina's character - Shruti Sengupta - responds in song, she does pause and ask herself why she's singing. And when the villain responds in song, he does so very sarcastically. BUT. It does NOT explain why Jagga randomly breaks into song and dance at his stoopid school.

Speaking of which:
  1. Did they ever study at this school? I only saw them listening to him explain his solutions for sundry mysteries, or dance, or be in the bathroom. Seriously.
  2. What has happened to Amitabh Bhattacharyya and Shaiamak Davar?!? I have absolutely no words to explain the torture felt due to absurd lyrics and ridiculous choreography.
I don't even have any memory of most of the thoughts that were mandraoing through my head during the movie, that is how bad it was. It's a very good thing the theater had less than ten people watching, because my two friends and I, as well as the three people sitting right in front of us, spent most of our time exclaiming loudly about the utterly absurd things that were happening.

I can't even begin to talk about how this movie was all over the place, honestly. It starts with something about an arms drop, that is apparently a true story, but clearly not one I had ever heard of. It then turned into a kids reading group at the Mumbai Book Fair, which, sidebar:
  • My friend from Mumbai promptly piped up to say there is no Mumbai Book Fair
  • That book fair looked less like a book fair and more like a shiny playhouse
  • 30 minutes of the movie is based in Kolkata. One of the lead characters is based on Kolkata. HAVE YOU NOT HEARD OF THE KOLKATA BOOK FAIR, YOU UTTER GENIUSES?
But I digress. That kid's reading group is weird on multiple levels, because a, these seem ridiculously dark stories for kids, b, there are people singing and dancing to the narration of the comic books being read out, which is just too complicated for me to understand, and c, the narration keeps jumping between Katrina Kaif's voice when the camera is on her, and someone else's voice when the camera is off her. The unknown narrator can actually narrate, so that was a relief, but Katrina Kaif cannot. I said this about Aamir Khan, who I have loved since the age of three, when I watched Rang De Basanti, which I also loved, and I will say this about Katrina Kaif after watching this movie, which has left me with many, many complicated feelings: If someone does not have a good or strong voice, DO NOT GET THEM TO NARRATE THINGS. And more importantly, but in lower case this time, do not randomly switch between voices in the narration.

The comics being read out (and sung, and danced to) to the kids start out as friendly Famous Five style mysteries (although I don't remember Enid Blyton ever dealing with murders), and then suddenly turns into very serious arms smuggling cases. The first arms smuggling case is introduced by Shruti as "not a very big case, but one of my favourites, for obvious reasons." The obvious reason is that she comes into the picture with this case, but how it's not a big case when they LITERALLY CATCH ARMS SMUGGLERS is beyond me.

The movie really wasn't coherent enough for me to talk about it coherently, but I will say this. I think the storyline had promise. The humour, based largely on how clumsy (described as "bad lucky") two people are, and how identical their clumsiness is, was largely funny, but went overboard too often, and was entirely predictable by the last hour. What I think made it all completely intolerable was the fact that they made it a damn musical. If they hadn't made already somewhat annoying characters sing practically nonstop, it may not have been that bad. And frankly, if you're making a musical, the music needs to be enjoyable. The only song I liked in the three hours was a sweet little song that could have played as a background song, and didn't have any choreography. Everything else was just annoying.

I also want to talk about the pieces of the movie set in Africa. I don't know much about African culture or languages, but part of me suspects a large part of that section must have had somewhat racist stereotypes, simply because its Bollywood. I also thought it was hilarious that Jagga saw the code 254 and immediately knew it was from a city called Moombaka, because I just know that code as the country I get spam texts that I ignore from. Then they came up with a place called Shundi, which immediately made me think of Goopy Gyne Bagha Byne, and as it turns out, when I googled it, it is from Goopy Gyne Bagha Byne. Also, those dances by Ranbir and Katrina keep doing to earn money? Who pays for such bad dances?!? Also, how is it that Katrina had a dozen outfits in her backpack along with the diary and her boyfriend's photo, but their passports and ALL their money were in the bags that they left behind in the hotel room or wherever?

Sundry other thoughts:
  • I like that a lot of the movie was set in Manipur, because not enough movies are. I like that they had people speak in the local language (at least, I assume it was accurately placed). Kolkata was shown too briefly to make much of an impact (again, they actually HAVE a book fair), but Manipur was beautifully shown. 
  • There is a cop in the "cases" who seemed like a mix of the annoying policeman who hated the Five Find Outers and the nice Inspector who always showed up at the end of the Secret Seven adventures to thank them.
  • Every time Katrina would fall I would wonder out loud how her glasses didn't break, and my friend would respond, "that's what you find strange in this whole mess?"
  • There is a girl in the Manipur adventures, who doesn't go to the boys' school Jagga attends (naturally), but he seems to be friends with. She is never named, I think she speaks only once - to explain what she discovered when doing research she was asked to do, saves their lives by calling the cops (which I predicted as soon as Jagga picks up a stone and everyone drops their guns, because seriously, this is that kind of movie). But not once is it explained who on earth she is. Hey, maybe she's the mysterious second narrator.
The movie had some genuinely sweet moments. And like I said, the humour wasn't all bad. But when you take the premise of a kid's adventure style case solving, mix it with a case like global arms smuggling, make a 34 year old play an 18 year old, and turn it into a goddamn musical, you just torture me for three hours straight. Thank the heavens AMC doesn't actually give an intermission just because the movie has an intermission.

But if you think I'm going to watch that sequel that was very blatantly hinted at, you're hoping for way too much.

I'm so exhausted.


I posted this last night, but then woke up this morning remembering more things I was ranting about during the movie, so you have the pleasure of seeing them too:

  • How did Shruti go from being a journalist looking into arms smuggling to a writer of comic books about Jagga?
  • If Bagchi was such a beloved Chemistry professor, how is it that all the former students who loved him so much ended up as journalists who wouldn't print things he wanted them to?
  • If the whole premise for being a musical was that Jagga stuttered and needed to sing to be understood, why is that the entire hospital staff did nothing but sing from the very beginning, even before Jagga realised he should sing nonstop?
  • When we were walking out from the theater, I was expounding on my theory that the movie would have been somewhat tolerable if it hadn't been a musical, and my friend argued that then what would have been the appeal of this Jagga character. My counterpoint: aren't literature and movies just FULL of gangly and awkward teenage boys, all without a stutter, who manage to appeal JUST FINE? Who DON'T SING?
  • I also realised this morning - I'm not sure I understood how the final case even got solved. Because there was the guy chasing them, who seemingly just disappeared, but they obviously managed to get away from him and get back to India. And of course there was the mysterious Big Bad, who they show in the last scene to oh-so cleverly set up a sequel. But if the Big Bad was behind all the arms smuggling, what was the stray line during one of the interminable songs about faking the arms drop to force innocent people int working for you? Either I completely missed something, or the ending made no sense. Or maybe I was just holding my head in my hands and groaning nonstop by that point, to pay any attention.
I was also so traumatised last night that I didn't remember to mention the Bengali pieces that I did enjoy:
  • Excellent uses of the phrases ghoda ka dim and gondogol
  • There is a Bengali poem read out at the prayer meeting that sounded beautiful, but also just made me feel sad and guilty all over again that I have never bothered to learn to read and write in my own language, and have therefore never bothered to read any of the literature that Bengali is so full of


No comments: