Saddled by bureaucracy, corruption and apathy, no fight for justice is prompt or pleasant. But when formulated for mainstream Hindi films, it acquires the personality of a ham revelling in its inflated sentimentality or silliness till it hits the point of parody or propaganda. If clever, the upshot is sure-fire applause.
Bollywood’s allegiance to this method may not be above predictability but when armed with dollops of sarcasm, eloquence and last minute bombshells, courtroom trials provide a great source of gratification if not a guarantee of reform.
Director Subhash Kapoor’s Jolly LLB did well with its droll depiction of a small-time lawyer (played by Arshad Warsi) and how his guilty conscience encourages him in emancipating the downtrodden.
But his quick-witted sequel starring a standout Akshay Kumar does it even better.
New faces, bigger scale, greater stakes notwithstanding, the story, which travels from Kanpur to Kashmir, is more or less the same.
If Warsi’s willful Jagdish Tyagi aka Jolly hailed from Meerut and proved his worth in Delhi’s District and Sessions Court, Akshay’s Jagdishwar Mishra aka Jolly is a sharp-tongued, short-fused Kanpuriya making a dishonest living in Lucknow’s dusty courthouse. Also, he’s much too cunning to be running measly errands for a haughty senior and knows it too.
Ambition gets the better of Jolly. Filled with a strong sense of remorse, he insists on setting things straight by putting the cops (Kumud Mishra, sneering away to perfection) behind a fake terrorist encounter behind bars.
If the original Jolly builds its quarrels around a raw, rude newcomer from small town tackling the condescension of a crooked albeit elite, veteran legal eagle, the new one pits Akshay against a lawyer (Annu Kapoor) who may be older, richer and popular but is, ultimately, a kindred spirit, a product of the same sly, stagy sensibility and regional flavour.
Flavour, after all, is the soul of Jolly LLB 2’s banter. Somewhere Arshad Warsi’s tendency to become Circuit would often surface and drown out his Meerut origins in a splash but Akshay holds on to his lippy Kanpur roots as dedicatedly as the janaeu he wears and reveres.
That he’s locking horns with a Lucknow lawyer only adds to the relish of watching them bicker. Subtlety no longer a requirement, Annu Kapoor brings out the entitlement, ego and drive of an established advocate with wicked vigour, a hilarious rate card and an utterly catchy motto — Pepsi or Pramod kabhi apna formula nahi batate.
Jolly and Pramod may be at the centre of this war of words but the man extracting the humour in it most effectively is, once again, Saurabh Shukla as the scene stealing Judge Tripathi.
The hysterical dharna scene simply reiterates his invaluable presence both as a character and actor. Shukla conveys dignity even in moments of complete mockery and points out at the larger troubles of his profession in the pithiest ways. I’d watch a third Jolly movie simply for him.
Another member from the first one shows up fleetingly, a reliably bizarre Sanjay Mishra hosting a strange game of cricket between team Ghoongat and Burkha. Sadly, the joke never quite hits home.
What’s nice though that even when Jolly LLB 2 relaxes its fun side to venture into serious terrain, it retains its spunk and irony. Once again, Akshay Kumar leaps into the dramatic space of verbal volleys and paan-stained pearlies with ease never allowing the robust Khiladi to override the rustic Jolly. Though it is relegated to side-lines, the evolved equation he shares with his tough, supportive wife (a zippy Huma Qureshi) is duly noticed.
All these superlative actors and their chuckle-worthy zingers penned by writer and director Subhash Kapoor makes it easy to ignore the problems in Jolly LLB 2. The needless song and dances, the somewhat preachy lessons in secularism and a lumbering episode featuring a stiff Sayani Gupta are first to come to mind.
Except it’s a criticism that’s gladly forgotten by the pungency at which Jolly LLB 2 scorns at the intense rot eating up a noble profession without compromising on the inherent rascality of its titular character.