Film Review: Jalsa [Public Gathering]

Film Review: Jalsa [Public Gathering]

Starring: Vidya Balan, Shefali Shah, Rohini Hattangadi, Manav Kaul, Iqbal Khan, Shrikant Yadav, Vidhatri Bandi

Director: Suresh Triveni

Bollywood films with a female-centric storyline seem to be enjoying a bit of a boon and the mega talented Vidya Balan is front and centre of many of them, including this Prime Video release.

Maya Menon (Balan) is the kind of Indian television news reporter who doesn’t follow the current trends of shouting down famous personalities but rather staring them down into meek submission with her razor-sharp line of questioning. She has built a formidable reputation as the no-nonsense journalist but that has come at a price. Late nights in the office, an ill-advised workplace romance and virtual chats with her disabled son are part of her daily routine.

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It is on one such late work night, having gulped down a quick drink after a hard day’s work, that Maya finds herself at the centre of the kind of controversy she is used to exposing. After accidentally running over a young girl on an empty Mumbai street, she makes the wrong judgment call about how to react to the disaster.

Her decision to flee the scene of the accident comes back to haunt her even sooner than she would have expected as the victim turns out not to be an unknown teenager but the daughter of her household help Ruksana (Shah). It is when a young cub reporter, Rohini George (Bandi), starts digging into the hit-and-run case that Maya is forced to face up to the consequences of her actions.

Any film with Vidya Balan is definitely worth a watch and so is this one. Her sheer energy has the ability to lift even mediocre scripts to a higher plane. However, despite her best efforts, this time the script does let her down in several places.

While Maya Menon as a character is entirely believable, how she reacts in a high-pressure scenario of a hit-and-run just does not ring true. A supremely confident female professional, who has the ability to make the craftiest of politicians and judges sweat under the collar, simply would not turn to jelly in the face of an unfortunate accident.

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Also, the film tries hard to layer the socio-economic dynamics of a class-based Mumbai society into the narrative but ultimately fails to tie all those threads into a well-woven narrative. Shefali Shah as the Muslim maid and Rohini Hattangadi as the moody carer mum are also impressive in their performances but ultimately this hit-and-run drama crashes out.

That said, the minor twist in the tale around the ‘Jalsa’ of the title at least manages to intrigue somewhat.

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