Few things are more tragic than a creator becoming the destroyer-in-chief of his own cherished creation. Prakash Jha does exactly that with Jai Gangaajal – the not-so-required and oh-so-underwhelming sequel to his 2003 cop drama Gangaajal, a film that was both gripping and realistic despite its underlying theme of vigilante justice.
Being the ‘template man’ of Bollywood that he is (along with a certain Madhur Bhandarkar), Prakash Jha goes through the same police-corrupt politicians-pareshan junta rountine in Jai Gangaajal. The only difference here is a female protagonist is kicking some ass (back to Mrityudand days?). While Priyanka Chopra as SP Abha Mathur does her job effortlessly, managing both emotional and action scenes with absolute panache, it is the film’s support cast that bogs her down considerably. There is not a single character who does not come across as a caricature, they all try too hard to play to the galleries. Remember how the troika of Mukesh Tiwari as Bachcha Yadav, Mohan Joshi as Sadhu Yadav and Yashpal Sharma as Sunder Yadav bowled us over in Gangaajal? These characters were not just named realistically (that bit continues even in the sequel) but were also given a huge fillip by some powerhouse acting by the respective actors. Nothing of that sort happens in Jai Gangaajal. The support cast, including the main antagonist Manav Kaul, is extremely thanda. Even Prakash Jha’s own acting debut as a corrupt cop (who eventually has a change of heart) fails to salvage any pride.
To be fair to Prakash Jha, he does a decent job as an actor, what if he maintains the same stoic & constipated expression on his face throughout the film. But, he is clearly sincere, enthusiastic and in some scenes, he actually does impress you. But, the problem begins to creep in when you realize that Jha cannot resist the temptation of being in front of the camera and eats up a lot of screen time unnecessarily. So, he is everywhere (quite literally) even before our supposed protagonist Abha Mathur can enter the scene. He is fighting the goons or getting beaten by them, planning, plotting, thinking, staring at you, trying to cry. He is everywhere. There are times when you wish to tell him to go back to the behind of the camera. The place where he has done some good job to begin with in his career. Sigh.
Jai Gangaajal tries hard to be ‘real’ but does not go much beyond its fake-looking sets and extremely predictable premise. What works though is perhaps the film’s dialogues and Jha’s continued hold over Hindi heartland/Bihari diction and accent. So, Jha has his signature address for Priyanka Chopra, ‘Madam Sir’, he also offers ‘Elaichi’ (cardamom) to everyone and says Aap galti se misguide ho gaye hain. All these little snippets show that Jha still has a clasp over the life and times of Hindi heartland but he is simply not willing to move over the clichés.
Jha’s share of blames does not end here. He is also credited for the film’s story and screenplay which has glaring loopholes and some deeply disturbing elements. In the name of ‘justice’, Jai Gangaajal goes overboard in somewhat patronizing mob lynching and vigilante justice. There’s no serious counter-narrative offered to the dreadful acts of the mob, including that of a young boy, and the film tends to ‘forget’ all of that in the interest of a suitable, whistle-worthy climax. Although, Gangajal itself had a subplot based on the real-life Bhagalpur blinding incidents but there the film’s protagonist (Ajay Devgn) strongly and convincingly stands his ground and denounces those behind it. Nothing of that sort happens in Jai Gangaajal and Priyanka Chopra looks hapless and tired trying to drive home some saner, sober points.
At the end of its marathon 2 hours 39 minutes runtime, you feel that Jai Gangaajal could have easily been a fun ‘lady-cop-going-after-the-bad-guys’ kind of film with Priyanka Chopra pulling off her act quite convincingly. But, it is undone by a cliché-ridden script, patchy screenplay (the kind which is so stretched and disjointed that you have to literally recall ‘who this character was’) and some problematic social messaging.
This is a clear case of PJ (Prakash Jha) spoiling PC’s party. You wish the director goes back to the drawing board, throws that ‘template’ out of the window, curbs his zeal to be an actor and looks at his own impressive repository – Damul, Mrityudand, Gangaajal, Apaharan, Rajneeti and the much-forgotten but my favorite Dil Kya Kare. Turn back the clock and get your mojo back, Jha sahib!
Rating: *1/2 (Poor)