Movie Review: ‘Jalsa’

Human life is a collection of tricky situations and how you deal with them. You may, sometimes, have to choose between two morally contradicting choices. Maya Menon’s journey in Jalsa is one such unpredictable ride. 

Maya Menon (Vidya Balan), a famous broadcast journalist—in Jalsa, is caught in a similarly tricky situation, where she can’t decide between the two big choices in front of her. She either has to own her mistake or pretend like it never happened. Had it been an ordinary thriller, the narrative would have revolved around Maya’s mistake, which remains to be a suspense until the end. But Jalsa is more about stepping back in life, introspecting, embracing innate imperfections, and not letting hypocrisy lead the path.  Jalsa is as much about motherhood and celebrating it as it is about taking a morally right decision. 

Jalsa is labeled as a thriller genre film. But director Suresh Triveni’s fascinating, deep character analysis and emotional drama in a two-hour film engulfs the audience with uncertainty. Jalsa takes the audience on a roller coaster ride of emotions, from being distressed to utterly disgusted and miffed. In the entire process, however, Triveni brings out the subtle differences between two diagrammatically opposite social positions and impeccably illustrates the role of money in determining the fates of the affluent. 

Jalsa begins with a gripping prelude with a hit-and-run accident backdrop. Maya is a journalist who constantly fights against hypocrite big shots. Maya is a mother to a specially-abled son, whose care-taker is a nanny-cum-cook Ruksana (Shefali Shah), a sweetheart in this film. A teen girl, Alia—in the supporting role, Ruksana’s daughter, is a crucial part of the story because of whom the story takes a major turn.

Ruksana’s 18- year-old daughter sneaks out of her home in the night and meets with a tragic accident. The one accident that shatters Ruksana and changes the fate of Maya. What happens to Alia? Who is the culprit? What has Maya got to do with the accident? By the time you find answers to all these questions, Maya finds herself in a perplexing situation. Integrity, righteousness, and morality are some values Maya always preaches. But does she practice them, when confronted with this toughest situation in life?   

Maya chooses to hush the truth and becomes a big fool who goes against her values and principles. She bribes all the stakeholder institutions to cover up the crime. This is when a new character, Rohini, enacted by Kani Kusruti, an ambitious trainee journalist, enters the scene and digs deeper to find the real truth. 

These four women are a relief to the audience. Without them, Jalsa is a complicated and confusing narrative. Although some technical loopholes cannot be ignored, the tussle between Maya and Ruksana keeps the curiosity alive in the audience. 

If not for Vidya Balan and Shefali Shah, Jalsa would have been a failed attempt. Maya and Ruksana manage to keep the subtlety of the concept. However, it still looks like a dull and over-stretched emotional drama that fails to connect the dots well. The gut-wrenching melodrama that is promised to the audience is never delivered. Triveni failed to represent the subtlety of human hypocrisy and ended up confusing the audience. Overall, Jalsa is an incomplete puzzle. The artistic view that Triveni tried to portray turned out to be unrealistic.

All the praise for Jalsa should primarily go to Vidya Balan and Shefali Shah for buttressing a weak script with loose ends.  The internal tussle of Maya makes you question your life’s decisions and inspire you to be a responsible and logical person at every step of your life. The way Maya overcomes her inner demons to embrace her imperfections and accept the truth inspires everyone. Vidya Balan deserves a huge round of applause for maturely portraying the complexity of growing out of her imperfections as Maya. 

At the same time, Ruksana is a true empowerment to all women. Her never-say-quit attitude, resilience, and determination to make the culprit face the law made her the real ‘HERO’ of the film. 

Ruksana has powerfully portrayed the essence of motherhood. She is a one-man army with an undeterred attitude to never give in to the unwelcoming and unpleasant circumstances engulfing her. So, Jalsa is surely worth watching for Vidya Balan and Shefali Shah. But that’s the only thing you will like about this film.

FF Ratings: **

-By Pallavi Patra

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