Jalsa: Gripping, Intriguing With Brilliant Performances – No Spoiler Review

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Whenever I watched Hollywood movies with strong, female protagonists, I always felt sad that Bollywood does not do justice to older female actresses, and we are forced to watch the same old romance ****, cheap item numbers and some bullshit masala formula. When I watched actresses like Olivia Colman and Susan Sarandon not just carry an entire movie on their shoulders but mesmerize us with their complicated characters,  with male characters and younger characters often as mere accessories, I couldn’t help but think that Bollywood gives women a raw deal. But thankfully, Bollywood is coming of age, and we have seen better in the past 5-6 years, especially with the outset of OTT . It is movies like Jalsa that give me hope.

Vidya Balan and Shefali Shah are insanely gifted actresses.  Add to that, a brilliant support cast that looks like they have been handpicked for their respective roles.  A gripping storyline which will keep you at the edge of your seats, high on emotion but never goes overboard with the drama.

Vidya Balan plays Maya Menon, a very successful journalist, a single mother with a specially abled  son. She is supported by her mother (brilliantly performed by Rohini Hattangadi) and her cook, Shefali Shah.  The lives of the two women are very different. There is a very apparent social and class divide.  However, they are also very similar – strong,  composed and trying to make their living despite living in a society that is not particularly kind to women.

A hit and run accident.  A mother watching her helpless daughter while trying to get some kind of justice. A woman struggling with guilt. A younger journalist trying to make it big in the big bad city, and police trying to solve a case. However, everybody has their own hidden agenda. I will not elaborate more as it will kill the suspense.

The beauty of this movie is despite the chaos and the seriousness of the conflict and the tragedy that is unfolding, the makers focus on the little things – the expressions of the characters, their frustrations, their inner conflict and turmoil. There is no confrontation scene as such between the two leading ladies (except one on a trivial issue).  It is the conversations they don’t have, it is the things that they keep to themselves that makes us feel for them.

Manav Kaul seems to have a contract of estranged husband / lover / ex on every single offering on OTT!  He had a very small role. But who can complain? It was still nice to see him.  He is so crush worthy! He was like an icing on the cake.

Some memorable parts for me:

  • When the mother looks at her daughter after the accident and says that once the daughter wakes up she will complain that her hair was cut badly. It reminded me of a blog written by a grieving mother, who lost her daughter in  unfathomable circumstances. She wrote in her blog that when her daughter was being taken for her last rites, she was made to wear a salwar kameez and the mother kept thinking that it was loose and her daughter would have hated it. This scene broke my heart but at the same it shows what a mother-daughter relationship is. Even in a living nightmare, a mother’s first thought still remains about what her daughter would have said.
  • The other mother-daughter relationship is that of Vidya Balan and Rohini Hattangadi. Their conversations and fights are so real! We take the people who take care of us for granted and bully them, especially our parents! Every time Maya Menon picks up her mother’s call and says, ‘Haan Maa’, every hindi-speaking daughter can relate.
  • Special mention for the kids who played Vidya Balan’s son and Shefali Shah’s son. Super cute and such brilliant actors. Also, the actor who played Shefali Shah’s husband looked like he was not even acting, and has been picked up from his real life!
  • There is a character in the movie who is very happy about his daughter’s marriage alliance in the US and is scared that something will jinx it. The obsession with an NRI son-in-law is real for so many people. It  reminded me of dance class I  joined in Gujarat. On the very first day, the Masterji told me about a girl who danced so well that “A boy from America agreed to marry her just because of her dance skills! Imagine, just by dancing well, you can get such a good prospect.”  He told me very enthusiastically!
  • Another sub plot in the movie reminded me of my Bombay PG days.  I had seen a 1RK  (one room kitchen) that I badly wanted to take on rent since I did not want any sharing.  By my mother had thought that it would be safer to live as a PG with a  landlady and that is where I finally ended up. The brokers, the PGs with old uncles and aunties, the 7-8 girls sharing a small room as depicted in the movie was all too real.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this movie. They have done their research and taken care of little aspects that made the movie genuine and likable. I have a lot more to say but don’t want to give away the plot.

I always believe that how a person operates out of fear shows their true character. People are nice until it comes to them. What does a person do when the stakes are so high?  Do you save yourself?  Or do you still have the integrity do the right thing?

Go watch for yourself. It is one of the best movies I have watched in recent times.

P.S. I want to watch Hamari Adhuri Kahaani, and couldn’t find it on Prime.  If it is on any of the OTT platforms, please DM me.

 

 

 


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