Saturday, January 08, 2011

#26: No One Killed Jessica

It's a challenging task to make a movie on real-life incidents. Particularly so, when such a subject has been under public glare. The challenge lies in the fact that in the minds of the audience, the climax is predestined before they even as much check the seat numbers on their tickets. Hence in such stories, the director is left with the monumental task of making the journey to that climax exciting because at critical points in the movie the audience can already predict the outcome. As opposed to fictional stories where the writer has the leverage to make both the end and the means to that end engaging enough for the audience. In India, sadly enough we do not make enough of these true stories.

No One Killed Jessica is hence a courageous attempt by writer-director Rajkumar Gupta to pick up a subject that made front page headlines for over ten years in our country and package it in a mainstream Bollywood movie. The source material of the first half of No One KIlled Jessica is the sequence of events that led to the murder of model Jessica Lall in a Delhi night club and the subsequent trial in a special court that sees accused Manish Bharadwaj go scot free in spite of witnesses. The second half is the story of how a TV news reporter rakes up the case in media putting a question mark on the verdict. Gupta manages to convey the story by broadly staying true to the real-life incidents and characters. His leading ladies particularly Vidya Balan turns in a superb performance as the victim's sister fighting for justice against a system that is buying out witnesses. Whether it's her stone dead expression when Jessica's pulse stops or the glint of hope in her eye as one of the prime witnesseses enters the court, it is her that the audience empathises with most. Rani Mukherjee, as the aggressive reporter Meera brings in a lot of spunk to the role, at times even going a tad overboard.

The supporting cast of prime witness Vikram Jaisingh, played by Neil Bhoopalam and the investigating Inspector played by Rajesh Sharma bring sincerity to their roles, especially the latter, who ironically in one line in the movie surmises corruption with a stark streak of honesty. Rajkumar Gupta's attention to detail in several facets of the movie is commendable with the old but familiar Windows 98 wallpaper adorning an editor's desktop taking the cake in a movie that begins in the year 1999. Amit Trivedi's music stitches the movie well, at all times, cohesively with it's screenplay.

Where the movie doesn't work is the final stages where as a viewer you're left a bit stranded as it doesn't reach the crescendo as a movie with such talent really should've. The first half begins with a bang but tends to drag on a bit. Rani Mukherjee's catharsis from a non-believer in the case to a believer is a sub-plot that could've been entirely avoided. No One Killed Jessica isn't the gripping movie that it could've been. It also isn't an over-the-top fare that would leave you cringing in your seats. It's almost a fine balance between the two without leaning towards either side. It deserves a watch for some sincere performances, a neat score and an earnest effort by the director who brings in a lot of heart in dealing with the kind of subject most directors wouldn't touch in a lifetime.

Rating: 6.5/10

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