In 2010, Subash Kapoor, an ex-political journalist, showed much promise with his intelligent satire, Phas Gaya Re Obama. I was gleaming with joy two months ago when I saw the trailer of his new film, Jolly LLB, starring Arshad Warsi, Boman Irani and Amrita Rao. Despite a sham of a music album, the film debuted confidently earlier this week and the good words started pouring in. Portly enough, Jolly LLB is a well-made film that stages relevant societal issues altruistically, much like Kapoor’s other film, with a deep semblance of his keen observations during his years as a journo as well as a satirical approach that keeps the proceedings breezy.
Like one spurring the other, Jolly LLB is essentially a courtroom drama that has a lot more themes under its top layer. A ridiculously shameful judicial system of India, the futility of police force, the distorted distribution of civil rights to the rich and the poor, and largely the multiple woeful manipulations of the truth. Amidst this, a simpleton trying to make it big as a lawyer juggling between his righteousness and success is naive enough to pit himself against a successful lawyer-cum-businessman who hates losing as much as he hates being called greedy. Taking off from the 1999 hit-and-run case of Sanjeev Nanda, Jolly LLB has a much familiar premise at its crux. A rich and spoilt brat involved in a hit-and-run case, a misrepresentation of evidence, a history of injustice and the lead character who has a change of heart. Much of this seems agonizingly mawkish as Kapoor throws in contrived situations (such as the scene where Warsi meets a family sleeping on the footpath below a flyover) and some melodrama and songs (multiple scenes of Amrita Rao and Arshad). The stupendous Sanjay Mishra appears as a cop in an indulgent sequence which may be affably hilarious but only adds to the wee bit of inconsistency. Yet, Jolly LLB is a rapturous film with much to root for. Here’s why.
If you can ignore than un-aspiring plotting of Jolly LLB, it has a string of laudable moments that balance out humor with drama with a rare finesse. Much of the minuses are transcendentally beset by a deft handling of courtroom sequences and towering performances by all the leads. Many motifs used by the film shine as peachy individual instances in its screenplay – the introduction of a lawyer with alternate identities of an astrologist, the inefficiency in written English of most lawyers, the flatulent judge played by Saurabh Shukla who makes no qualms about both justice on evidence and requesting small favors from powerful lawyers, the throwaway conduct of the procedural trials with people walking in and out and Boman Irani texting away, the joke of a security guard provided to Arshad when his life is under threat or just the theft of one’s living identity. Despite its predictable nature and some lazy conveniences, Jolly LLB remains constantly engaging and thoroughly watchable. Music by Krsna is one frumpy affair that only hinders the progress of the narrative, while most other technical aspects are sound.
Jolly LLB buttresses a mammoth portion of its USP to the performances given by the leads. Arshad Warsi leads the film with constant assuredness and lends a variety of flavors to the title character with remarkable ease. He stunningly intones a virile fighter as well as a charming struggler equally well. Boman Irani is razor-sharp as the sneering lawyer who treats his job like a business and would go to any lengths to get his way with things. Ramesh Deo is miscast in an inconsequential role, Amrita Rao is wasted as an eye-candy in yet another film while Manoj Pahwa does what he is best at. Sanjay Mishra is pure joy in a short sequence. But the film unarguably belongs to Saurabh Shukla. Seasoned just to perfection, Shukla plays the avaricious yet unassuming judge of the sessions court who loves his chai/coffee, his fan, his lunch and his respect equally as much as he likes to complain about listening to moronic trials day after day or take a dig at the lawyers whenever he can. To say the least, he is terrific and incredibly the reason enough to watch the film.
Jolly LLB is a well-intentioned film that focuses on the plight of the poor India while dealing with our own judiciary. It also showcases the beguiling world of courts through the eyes of a simpleton. Apart from its social relevance, the film has enough moments to laugh out loud and solid performances. But I must complain that being a tad bit more ambitious in its writing, the film would have spun a whole new world of freshness. May I say again, watch this one for Saurabh Shukla!
Rating – 3/5