Sunday, January 09, 2011

No one killed Jessica - A review

'No one killed Jessica' is an onscreen adaptation of the infamous Jessica Lall murder case that rocked the news time and again a few years ago. The title of the film was taken from a news article that appeared in the Times of India in 2006. Of course, it seems to be an apt characterization of the highly corrupt and ineffective judiciary system our country is gaining quick reputation for.

So we are shown the murder where Jessica is shot point blank by Manish Bharadwaj when he and his buddies are refused alcohol in an upscale party where she is bar tending one night. What follows is the usual power play of Manish's rich and influential daddy trying to pull every string possible to ensure his son walks a free man. Fighting against this is Jessica's defiant young sister Sabrina Lall (Vidya Balan) who is turning every stone possible to ensure witnesses maintain their integrity and help her get justice. But as would be expected from our reliable system, justice isn't delivered. Manish and co. walk out unharmed as Sabrina, understandably, loses all faith in the system and tries to move on with life.

Enter firebrand reporter Meera (Rani Mukerjee). She is being celebrated as the powerhouse journalist who captured the goings on in Kargil just about the same time Jessica's case was making news. Being the arrogant scribe that she is, Meera ignores the Jessica case as being an 'open and shut' case given the abundance of evidence only to find out, years later, that the news headlines reads 'No one killed Jessica'. This, despite the presence of hundreds of witnesses. She then heads out to set things right through a barrage of sting operations and tape leaks thus reigniting the case with fresh energy.

'No one killed Jessica' had all the makings of a brilliant film that could have been a benchmark. Yet, in the heady preparation to create something as inspiring and 'cool' as 'Rang De Basanti', Rajkumar Gupta (the guy who made 'Aamir') unfortunately makes way to some loud clichés. For one thing, he gives Rani a pretty free hand with her performance which turns out slightly counter productive. In a bid to showcase her character as a tough no nonsense journalist, Gupta instead lets her turn out to be a potty mouthed stereotype. He needlessly shows us that she indulges in casual sex and is fond of calling herself (and others!) a bitch every time she gets a chance. How this was relevant to the plot is something we are supposed to decipher. Now, I am no media professional, but I felt the whole act put up by Rani was just too contrived and didn't come out as convincing. Letting her be a journalist with her heart in the right place would have sufficed aplenty but apparently Indian cinema these days needs a generous dose of expletives and rude gestures to make it a box office success.

Then there is Vidya who is possibly the only reason anyone would want to go back and watch this movie a second time. She delivers an extremely convincing performance with her restraint coated silence. Established stars find playing the victim sometimes an open invite to ham their way through it. But Vidya instead chooses to do the right thing and zip up her emotions until when they are required to be exhibited. In fact, I have no qualms in stating that it is her portrayal as the wronged citizen that helps avoid this movie from being yet another painting determined to get preachy about words like nainsaafi and andha kanoon. If you had to, do watch it for her.

The supporting cast is consistent too, primarily Rajesh Sharma (corrupt Gunjaal from Khosla ka ghosla) who plays a cop with very clear gray shades. He has no problems confessing he took a bribe not to smack around the arrested rich kid but he also cares about justice and wants to do what he can to make the truth win. It comes out as a portrayal that stays true to the reality on the ground of how authentic policemen behave in India.

Stories such as these need to rely heavily on the sensitivity of how such untimely and shocking incidents cripple the common man in India. They need to weave their narration around the subtle nuances that form the complex fabric of human emotions. Even though Gupta achieves that in a few select scenes, by and large the narrative, sadly, sticks to commercial formula. O
n a brighter side, it does remind us once again that people power still matters in democracies. A reminder that will hopefully serve us well as more multi-crore scams are unearthed each year in the glorious nation of ours that is still known as a 'developing' one. For this, I'd recommend giving 'No one killed Jessica' a watch.

8 reflections:

VeeJee said...

Good review man.Rani Mukherji's problem is that her career is in the toilet. That starts to show in her dialogs as well. ^_- Thats all.


Nona said...

Thanks for the review. Waiting to see this one!

ShaK said...


Ha! That was a good one, mate. Makes complete sense. Looks like everyone is going the trashy reality show way.


ShaK said...


Sure thing mate.

mepretentious said...

Nice review and yet some controversial points got stuck into my system and I decided to clear them here.

Before that let me tell you, I read the Adichie post and I really believe in The perspective theory. An event / person/place/... description gets influenced by the perspective and stereotyped too.

And coming out strongly here because I partially belong to the (Rani) category. Aggressive, smart-worker rather than a hard-worker, with good amount of ego and a love-hate relationship with all my superiors.
And this is not just me, but all females of my genre.
Though am not foul-mouthed, but most of my friends are. One of them in Reuters uses punjabi abuses more sparingly at office than at home.

And a person who believes in sting-operation to uncover a crime cannot be a goody-two-shoes type. She has to be, as she was portrayed.

Believe me, its as realistic as the cop was.
And if Rani's character was changed to more saintly-soul type, then it would have been filmy n subtly loud.
As a working Delhite girl I found no cliches there. For me it was a perfectly realistic cinema, maybe as Dhobighaat is for Mumbaikars!

ShaK said...


Thank you for being here. I think my issue with Rani's character had to do more with how Rani actually portrayed it rather than the cliche of a scribe being heady and foul mouthed. If someone more 'authentic sounding' had been used, I'd have certainly not found it as annoying and contrived as I did. I certainly take your point that the realistic part of it is could be true, but what irked me was just how awkward Rani sounded when she was mouthing off. Much like Aamir Khan trying to speak in English (odd since I thought he generally spoke rather fluent English) in Dhobi Ghat.


mepretentious said...

Quick Reply!
And the best that I checked too!!

The potrayal thing - I agree. Not many actress can do justice to real-characters as these.
Konkona is one who could have played it perfectly. Even the regular 'pagal hai kya...' sounds so authentic when she delivers.
So peace at last!

I always believed Aamir speaks 'pakka' Indian English as in puRple and gUVaVa. Yet to see Dhobighaat.

Between, could not digest Aamir's punjabi too, in RDB. :)

TL said...

Agree completely on Rani's character review..and that she has done a very bad job at it too.

My review for the movie was 'NOKJ: Bollywood again proves it cannot make A good movie given a good subject. Thumbs down. Wish Hollywood had made this instead'

The Court drama in this movie was hilarious..They should have referred to TV drama's like Law & Order to see how court drama should be made.