Whenever a woman plays a cop in our movies, she’s either trying to prove her worth with an unsmiling disposition or failing it by posturing in a figure hugging uniform. One seldom sees the space between heroic and heroine.
Priyanka Chopra’s Superintendent of Police Abha Mathur in Jai GangaaJal isn’t above glamour but there’s something humane in her methods. She’s a smart player, shrewd enough to realise the expectations of her politician family friend’s obligations. Nor is she oblivious to the rampant corruption in her own department in an unruly district of Madhya Pradesh.
Assuredly enough, the light-footed protector of all things honorable and lawful conducts herself with steel, smiles and sarcasm. Priyanka imbues calm charisma and confidence in a formulaic character yet never pedals on gratuitous feminism.
Too bad she’s relegated to playing second fiddle to the film’s director Prakash Jha. Or what could also be known as the biggest problem of Jai GangaaJal.
Now Jha’s knowledge in current affairs is undisputed, providing him regular fodder for a conscious if awfully bombastic effort to pass judgment on large-scale depravity. But in Jai Gangaajal, a follow-up to his 2003 hit, he assumes the role of a protagonist too. It’s not a cameo, a villain or a supporting character but a full-fledged leading part, in which his unconvincing transformation from a tainted cop to gallant knight of the masses forms the crux of the plot.
The premise in GangaaJal centered on the provocation behind a police officer’s need to adopt extreme measures inspired by the 1980 Bhagalpur blindings incident. Here it’s all about land grabbing to set up a high-priced thermal power plant even as the robbed farmer languishes or commits suicide.
Jha, who’s also on the pay roll of local political goons (a shifty Manav Kaul, sweaty Ninad Kamat and showy Murli Sharma), pitches in as facilitator of these trespasses. It’s the sort of scenario where villains address themselves in third person and officers, otherwise unapologetic about their dishonest ways, get super touchy if someone else demeans the ‘khaki.’
Still, despite its constant clichés and contradictions, the foreseeability of its narrative and a deluge of raucous songs diluting the impact of every single chase or lathi charge led by Priyanka, Jai GangaaJal is watchable till Jha lets self-indulgence get the better of him.
Once Jai GangaaJal loses sight of all else to become only about his half-baked atonement it drags and dodders from the weight of its stocky dialogues, tediously cosmetic revolt and a leading man of very limited screen presence hogging all the limelight.
Jha looks fit and speaks well but his eyes completely stiffen in front of the camera. He seems to be channeling Ajay Devgn and Nana Patekar in action and intensity. Except Jai Gangaajal reveals the conspicuous difference between a man who’s spent a better part of his career behind screen from the ones he’s directed for it.