Jagga Jasoos Review (SPOILERS): Insults the Intelligence of Children and Adults

Well, I watched it!  I hated it!  And not just because I was planning to hate it.  I really did hate it, even after giving it a fair chance and sitting straight through.  Also, I was really really really really bored.  I checked my phone 5 times, the first time after the first 20 minutes because I thought surely the first hour at least must have passed.  Honestly, the best part of the whole experience were the trailers (A Gentleman, looking better and better!).  And now I am sitting in the mall food court, eating lunch and writing this very fast so I can leave the whole horrible experience behind me.

Whole plot in one sentence: Ranbir Kapoor is the coolest best teenage boy ever and beautiful 25 year old women need him to rescue them.

Whole plot in one paragraph:

The framing device is a book fair at which Katrina is telling the story of the comic books about Jagga Jasoos, claiming he is a real person.  Jagga (Ranbir) was raised in the hospital where he was born and his parents abandoned him until he saves a man, Saswata Chatterjee (who must have had a shock going from Kahaani to this), after he falls from a train and brings him to the hospital.  Saswata adopts him, they have a brief period of happiness, then Saswata abandons him at a school in Assam after being given a mysterious offer by a strange man, and sends him birthday video tapes every year teaching him special agent skills.  Katrina arrives in the Assamese town, an investigating reporter who constantly needs to be rescued, Ranbir helps her, she promises to help him whenever he needs anything.  Ranbir’s father dies, he is approached by his father’s superior who says his father was a secret agent, working for him.  Ranbir does trust the guy, convinces Katrina to work with him to find his father on their own, they go to Africa to his last known location.  The father’s superior chases them, they learn that he is an ex-RAW agent who is now a full-time blackmailer and was just using Saswata to help get information on the top arms dealer so he could blackmail him.  Ranbir and Katrina also track down this arms dealer, there is a chase on trains, and then Ranbir and Saswata are reunited.  Which brings us back to the framing device, the bookfair where Katrina is telling this story to bored children, and Ranbir and Saswata are brought out.  And then twist ending, the lights suddenly go out, and come on again to show Ranbir and Saswata kidnapped by the arms dealer they were chasing, who is played by Nawazuddin Siddiqui in a 2 second cameo.  THE END.

 

 

Do you know why Ranbir’s hair goes like that in the poster?  Because it is the way his father, Saswata, used to brush it when he was a little kid and he misses his father.  The film shows us that once.  And the rest of the time, we are just shown the hair.  This is what I meant in my post on the trailer about showing us the sign for the sign of the thing, instead of any real “thing”.

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Instead of seeing Ranbir miss his father, or feeling that emotion from him, the purpose of the missing is just so we can get this cool hairstyle that the director liked the look of.  The look comes first, and then the meaning, in everything.  There is a lot of sung dialogue.  The in universe explanation is that Ranbir stutters and has to sing.  But we get plenty of scenes of him stuttering and talking, and plenty of scenes of other non-stutterers singing.  I’m not saying it is illogical, just that again it feels like the idea was to have cool sung dialogue, and then the stutter came after.

 

It’s not just the emotions that came after, EVERYTHING came after the “look” of the film.  The script is in so many different parts, you could have cut all but the last hour and lost nothing.  Lost nothing except a bunch of really “cool looking” action scenes.  Well, not that cool, some of the green screening is really not good.  But if they had tried to do it with real effects, it wouldn’t have been as “cool”, so we the audience have to settle for poor green screening instead.  And the dubbing is really bad!  They spent all this time on the “cool” sung dialogue and then didn’t make sure it actually matched the character’s lips when they sung/spoke.

But mostly it’s the emotions that came second.  Our main characters are animals, who stroll through the world connecting to nothing and no one outside of their own selves.  People are gunned down in front of them, and it doesn’t matter, it’s just a cool adventure.  You may not notice that when watching the film, but that’s the point, that you DON’T notice that.  The filmmaker has no humanity, no sense of the broader connections of human beings, all humans (besides his 3 main characters) are just props.

It’s incredibly colonial.  In that, all the world is an adventure waiting to be had by our “golden boy” hero.  This is the same thinking as Tarzan, as Kipling, and the reason in the real world we all idolized that murderous sociopath Henry Morton Stanley (“Dr. Livingstone, I presume”).  The film is supposed to be anti-arms dealers, but it does so in a way that supports the underlying reasons that arms dealers thrive.

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(Put Ranbir’s head on Stanley’s body, and this could be a still from Jagga Jasoos)

We never learn why the Assamese around Ranbir might want to rebel, might not be satisfied with their life.  We never learn the underlying economic and social reasons that the African country they visit might have such a gun problem.  It’s Africa!  They’re just like that there!  We never think about why Katrina is at a bookfair with well-dressed well-fed children selling a book written in English in a country with a massive illiteracy and poverty problem.  Because that would require actual thought, actual feelings, when it is so much simpler to just glorify the perfect intellectual hero.

It’s always the intellectual hero, isn’t it?  The director standin?  The boy who reads and wears glasses and has a hard time relating to others?  I don’t mind that as a hero, what I mind is that I am supposed to relate to him because he reads and wears glasses and has a crush on a pretty girl.  No further effort required.  As though all the world, and the whole audience for this film, is made up of people who are just like that.  Because in Anurag Basu’s mind, it is.  The entire world is just a mirror image of himself/his hero, everyone else is there merely to shine a light on his own wonderfulness.

The issues are all intellectual-spoiled-male issues too.  The most important relationship is a boy and his father.  Not a child and parent, a boy and his father.  Katrina’s family?  Who knows!  Doesn’t matter!  Women don’t need parents.  All the woman in Ranbir’s life who helped raise him before and after his father appeared?  Don’t matter!  Literally the first thing we see “grown” Ranbir do is coldly investigate the murder of one of his female teachers by the other of his female teachers.  That is how little they mean to him.

Oh, and let’s take a moment for “grown” Ranbir.  It’s very disturbing.  Why would a grown man feel the need to play dress up as a teenager?  The only times I found him a pleasure to watch onscreen were the few moments when, accidentally, in the middle of a song or another sequence, he dropped the “little boy” act and made a gesture or an expression that belonged on a 30-something man’s face.

This is also when I realize how incredibly UNtalented Ranbir is.  He is great in Wake Up Sid.  He is great in Ae Dil Hai Mushkil.  And then you watch Rockstar.  And Tamasha.  And start to realise, I think he can only play teenage boys?  Either as an actor, or maybe as a person altogether, he doesn’t know how to grow up.  How to play the responsible one, the one in control of his own life, the one that doesn’t have to be graded on a curve of “well, he’s doing very well for his age.”  Because, he’s not!  He is 35 years old.  That’s the same age as Priyanka Chopra.  And Prithviraj.  Why do we hold them to such a high standard, and Ranbir still gets “time to grow up”?  Especially with this movie, a 35 year old playing small child, and surrounding himself with a small child’s view of other characters (well, that’s more Basu’s fault, but Ranbir is the one who agreed to star and produce in the film).

Katrina Kaif suffers the most through authorial disinterest.  As an actress, she was fine.  Did what she was directed.  But what she was directed was  OH MY GOSH!!!!  I honestly thought, after her introduction, that there might be a freeze frame and a voice over saying “ha-ha, that would be silly if we did that!  Obviously a smart woman who falls down all the time and a beautiful girl who wears glasses are the kind of thing that aware people joke about now because they are such stupid tropes.”  And then it didn’t happen.  That really is her character.  Not pretty because she wears glasses.  Not perfect because she falls down and needs to be rescued.

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(See the way she is sitting behind him and holding on?  That’s what she does for 90% of her screentime.  Because all intelligent successful 25 year old women just need to cling to teenage boys who are showing them the way)

Does Anurag Basu not know how to read?  Or does he not know how to read English?  Has he never heard of the “Mary Sue”?  Never read any of the many many many many many articles pointing out the stupidity of the “beautiful clumsy woman” idea?

Oh, and on top of that, we also get the “25 year old woman sexual attracted to a teenage boy”.  They dress it up a lot, but that’s what it is.  Because isn’t it the fantasy of the whole audience for a beautiful older woman to fall in love with them as teenagers?  Oh, just the fantasy of straight former teenage boys?  Well, that’s the only audience that matters anyway!

All of that is why it insults the intelligence of children.  Children know when something is real and when it is fake.  Maybe they can’t understand all the ins and outs of a story, or have the maturity to grasp a full moral conundrum.  But when someone is being lazy, when someone is saying “oh, it’s just a children’s story, they don’t care about characters/deep thoughts/cohesive plots”, then children can tell.

Image result for cars 3

(I’m not talking about Cars 3, that’s not trying to be anything more than it is.  I’m talking about movies like this, and those really boring books your spinster aunt always gave you as a kid because they were “good” for you and told “wholesome” stories)

The reason it insults the intelligence of adults is something else entirely.  Through out the film, at the “book fair” framing device, Katrina is bring out this chorus of child actors to do incredibly choreographed songs and dances.  Which, by the way, is another thing that is not for kids!  Kids like seeing kids onscreen, sure, but they like seeing kids having a good time, running around, DOING stuff.  Not little perfectly regulated performing children, that’s what adults who don’t like children, like.  Anyway, halfway through some of the “audience” children get bored, and Katrina responds by leading a song about how “we don’t care about all the ills of society because we have a magic token by our door that protects us.”  As in, “recognize your own blindness and the futility of the superstition that you are protected.”

(Also, if you need to see adorable performing children, this is the way to go.  Notice that the kids get to actually “act” and DO STUFF in this show, not just stand there like little robots singing)

Okay, fine.  But if you are saying that I am bored watching this movie because I don’t care enough about the problem of illegal arms sales, then I think you missed the point.  As a filmmaker, it is your job to MAKE me care!  I don’t have to want to watch your movie, and if I don’t want to watch your movie, that doesn’t mean I don’t care about what it is saying.  It means this is a BAD movie.  And it is a bad movie because instead of actually putting some effort into making it a good movie, you put in a song directly telling us that we should enjoy it and if we don’t, the fault is ours.

One final thing.  I stayed through most of the credits, as I always do.  You know one big issue the film did not address onscreen and contributed to off screen?  The death of the Indian economy.  From two directions.

First, OH WOW did they overspend!!!!  Something as simple as the number of staff listed for each of the stars, much much higher than I am used to seeing in end credits.  Even the top stars, we are talking, like, 3-5 staff members.  I think Jackie Shroff in the last movie I saw him in had, like, 1.  And then the music houses and the VFX and everything else, SO MANY PEOPLE.

Like I said, I always watch the end credits.  So this isn’t me being unaware that end credits include everyone on a film, even the random intern.  I know that.  Even by that marker, these were way way too long.  This was people being given way too much money and spending it on whatever they wanted, like some kind of prom queen in a mall (did I mention I am writing this in the mall food court?).  No thought for tomorrow, no thought for sustainable profit, no thought for anything but taking everything they could grab today.

(this is Anurag Basu and Ranbir Kapoor shopping for this picture.  Except not, because Alia’s character was smart enough to know what looked good on her and what were the best brands, not just spending money because Western press told her you just had to have a sound mixer, even if he had never dealt with Indian style dubbing before)

Secondly, NOTHING WAS DONE IN INDIA!  VFX, music performers, everything that could be done overseas, was.  And not because it was cheaper or anything, just because it is “better” overseas.  They used a choir from Nashville!  Oh, and of course they could use that choir because the film was so so so so so American.  I can’t think of a single moment that was unique to India, either as a setting or as a style of filmmaking, in the entire movie.  Including the music.  Well, Pritam did a good job, I have to say that (music was the best part of the film), but the director’s vision restricted him to this stupid sung/spoken choir type style which is just not Indian.  Remember my Arijit Singh concert experience?  Indian singing isn’t about a choir, it’s about one incredibly well-trained and talented person, sometimes working with one other incredibly well-trained and talented person.  Not 50 people who kind of know how to sing joining together so their voices sound impressive.

 

This is the movie that drove Disney out of India, that drove Siddharth Roy Kapur out of UTV, that drove Ranbir out of producing, that drove Katrina away from Ranbir, and I have to say, now that I have watched it, I can see why.

 

 

(But hey, just because it was the worst experience of my life watching it, and the worst experience of their lives making it, that doesn’t mean you won’t enjoy it!)

 

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64 thoughts on “Jagga Jasoos Review (SPOILERS): Insults the Intelligence of Children and Adults

  1. Wait, it has Saswata Chatterjee AND Nawazuddin Siddiqui? It sounds like a Kahaani reunion.

    And, does anybody else think Saswata Chatterjee looks like Garrison Keillor?

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  2. The fact that you didn’t put up a non-spoiler review tells me that you didn’t want to think about this twice. Right?

    The people who “loved” it, loved it for Ranbir’s performance and the cinematography. You don’t seem to think much of the “cool” effects (I just skimmed your review), but did you say anything about the performance? Do you think Ranbir deserves all the plaudits he’s been getting? Even Kat got some good notices.

    Beyond that, I was wondering if you think the Indian audience who like it, like it because they’re not familiar with Hollywood films? (which doesn’t apply for the people who comment online, which are the only comments I’ve read). And I guess it doesn’t apply to the critics as well.So what, besides payoff, explains the amazingly glowing reviews?

    How does it compare to Tubelight, Bombay Velvet, Besharam? Does Ranbir have a future in Bollywood? If so, why? 🙂

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    • There will be a no spoiler review at some point, this one was supposed to be no spoiler, but then it veered into spoiler territory and I just went with it.

      As I saw it, the cinematography was frankly nothing special. Would have been cool before Big fish, Amelie, and anything by Alfonso Cauron or Guillermo Del Toro or Terry Gilliam. There’s taking Hollywood stuff and changing it and making it into something new by merging it with Indian sensibilities, and then there’s just trying to cheat the audience that hasn’t seen as many non-Indian stuff as you so they don’t realize it could be better. Befikre, Airlift, Neerja, those were all way way more inventive and effective in telling their story.

      And Ranbir was terrible. That is, this is the role that made me realize he might really be terrible. He did a great job running through all the expressions you learn first day of acting class, “sad!” “happy!” “thoughtful!”, but he never actually made me feel anything for his character. Plus, it was literally disturbing watching him play a teenager. It suddenly made me wonder if he actually needs therapy or something. A 35 year old man, playing a teenager, it’s just wrong.

      Bottom line, both his acting and the style of the film are incredibly noticeable and showy. Which means it is a bad film. In a good film, the acting and the cinematography are there to support the story, you aren’t sitting there thinking “acting!”, you are just lost in the characters. And you aren’t sitting there thinking “camerawork! CGI!”, you are thinking about the story that is being told onscreen.

      As for all the people who liked it, I guess I would say they are wrong? There is a certain kind of film that you think is good, and you think you should like, because it seems like the kind of film you should like. It’s different than anything you happen to have seen before (because you haven’t seen the other better versions), and it has a performance that is different than you have seen before (but does different mean better?). You don’t know what to do with it, but you don’t want to risk being behind the curve, so you say “oh yes, brilliant!” And then ten years later you look back and think “what did I ever see in that movie? why did I say that?” It’s the Traffic/Life is Beautiful/Silent Movie/whatever high concept curse.

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  3. As a general rule I can’t bear dialogues that are sung so that has put me off straight away. And Ranbir playing overgrown schoolboy.

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    • Like I said, it’s actually disturbing to watch. I mean, it’s a 35 year old man in a school boy uniform! This is different from seeing a 40 year old in college, at least then everyone is over the age of consent and stuff. But, yuch!!! A clearly more-than-grown man sleeping in a dormitory with a bunch of children? [shudders]

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  4. Pingback: Jagga Jasoos Review (NO SPOILERS): Behind the High Concepts, The Emperor Has No Clothes | dontcallitbollywood

  5. I know you’re not exactly a movie-critic style writer (not yet anyway) and so you still prefer just writing down your thoughts “very fast” as-is in the angst and venting-mood right after watching, instead of say a more considered and cooled-down version. Just thought it’d be best to set aside that disclaimer first.

    1. Unless Kat was telling that story in rural India, I don’t see why the well-fed and well-dressed kids listening in English looks out of place to you. Yes going purely by numbers India does have a illiteracy and poverty problem but that does not mean it must be reflected in all depictions and portrayals. I’m now maybe beginning to understand the cynicism behind those Indians who hated Slumdog because they felt they only propagated/took “advantage” of that poor India image etc.

    2. Not sure if this will be the last time I feel the need to back Ranbir again. IMO it is somewhat admissible to call him one-dimensional but untalented? Since when has talent and success gone hand-in-hand all the time? I for one am right glad he is sticking to choosing roles he believes in/connects with at some level. Which means he will always be drawn towards roles he deems complex. So okay, his last attempt at such man-child role succeeded in Ajab Prem and this misses the mark, fine by me as someone who’d much prefer he doesn’t fall into the need to be a BO pull, especially as he can certainly afford to for some more time at least. As for the comparison with Priyanka, her best work has been those with troubled/grow-up/negative roles in such films as Fashion, Aitraaz and 7 Khoon Maaf while Ranbir at least has done acclaimed work in such films as Rocket Singh, Barfi and Raajneeti which have shown his range a bit.

    3. Kind of silly to let the venting extend to attributing this film to their separation really. Come on, if I wanted that kind of mouthing off I’d stick to Twitter instead of being interested in a qualified and published western writer’s take on Indian cinema! I for one am glad the Indian media reviews do give kind of pity-credit for at least attempting this kind of a story that is still very rare in India. Idea is worthwhile (which is probably what got Ranbir to dive in to act and produce) but execution is botched as expected from the trailers (easy to say now sure heh).

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    • 1. It’s combining the preachy “you are blind to the problems of rural India!” song with choosing to use a framing device of wealthy children. They could use any framing device they wanted, if they were sincere about making us care about the issues of India, then maybe examine the decision to use this very wealthy children in the film, instead of using as a framing device a school in rural India. Or, if you have made this obvious choice, maybe don’t include a preachy song about the problems of rural India.

      2. Agree to disagree, I just don’t see Ranbir really doing that much with his career. His roles are all very similar to each other, and he seems to be getting this “well, he’s just starting out” kind of credit for trying, and forgiveness for failing, that really no longer fits with someone who is 35 and has been working for 10 years.

      3. I’m not sure if I would even say the idea is worthwhile? I mean, why? Why make a children’s whimsy type of film? What is the value to that? Why not just make a good movie that can stand on it’s own without the whimsy and the uniqueness?

      As for the tone of my writing and so on, that is a deliberate choice in my writing style. I can be all kinds of formal and objective sounding if I wanted. But it’s really not fair, I don’t think. No one is objective completely about film, it’s always a matter of taste and prejudices. Using that sort of formal objective language kind of oppresses you into thinking that the reviewer isn’t bringing anything personal to the table. That they are as objective as a doctor telling you test results.

      I kind of morally object to that sort of writing. It’s something you learn in grad school or other more formal education, and it makes everyone else feel like their thoughts have less merit. I can do it too, but I choose not to, because I want you to feel like you can say “Hey, I think Ranbir is a great actor! I disagree!” instead of like you have to sit there and receive wisdom from me.

      Especially when I don’t like a film. I never want to use “grown-up” language to convince you not to like a film, because you should be able to like it and not feel guilty for that. When I like a film, that is when I am more likely to be formal and serious, because I really do want to convince you. It’s much more important for you to believe me when I say a film is good than when I say it is bad.

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      • Like your view about wanting to impress/sell an opinion about a film you think is good rather than for a bad film, nice.

        I’m sure everyone realizes nobody actually sets out with the intention to make a bad film that fails and gets laughed at and loses money? Surely any industry or profession that runs on popularity/opinion/subjectivity is always going to be very very difficult to succeed in. I get your point about actually having kids on screen and in the plot driving the story when one sets out to make a film aimed at kids. But while there is no inherent value in making any one type of film, maybe apart from say a social message type, I don’t see the validity in questioning why a filmmaker would set out to make a certain kind of film. At a time and in a space where kid-friendly fantasy ride films are rare, ideas from proven minds in that realm are definitely welcome or so I think.

        Then of course there are films rarer still like Kaaka Muttai which are about poor kids but one which kids in general can’t necessarily appreciate or like, certainly not enjoy given it’s social message type topic.

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        • It’s the kid-friendly fantasy ride film that I don’t see as necessarily needed. One of the things I loved about Indian films when I first found them was that there was no division between “children” movies and “adult” movies. Similar to the older Hollywood movies I loved, back before Disney proved there was a market in children’s pictures. I like the idea of a film that combines content kids can enjoy, with more complex content adults can like. And without resorting to real adult-adult content. Bahubali, Singin the Rain, Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, the Marvel movies, they all found that balance. To me, that is the highest ideal, much better than trying to make something only for kids or only for adults.

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          • Of course, even for a kids oriented film to work it must at least be watchable/relatable to adults as well who were kids earlier, or like you said must have some themes/ideas/commentary running in the background that kids will miss but adults can appreciate (never mind me who often misses obvious symbolism). Oh and Indian cinema has always had a very questionable thing about what is considered okay for kids to watch and what passes for films that families watch with kids. Loosely it is only outright nudity and cuss words (creatively but obviously hidden/implied adult stuff still passes) that are deemed adult with nothing thought about suggestive themes/violence etc

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          • Interesting debate. I have to disagree with karthik though. We do have movies like Stanley ka Dabba and Chillar party and Bhootnath that tell a story about kids from a kid’s POV. I agree on an average there aren’t too many films made for children specifically but then again neither do we have films made specifically for working professionals, women, parents, teens, old people, doctors, etc. Indian films, especially bollywood seems make films only for people dealing with romantic crap. Or infatuation crap.

            The first thing I remember thinking when I watched the trailer for Jagga was how much it made me think of Amelie. I don’t speak French and if I don’t watch the subtitles I don’t get the dialogue. But with Amelie, I’d watched it so many times, I didn’t need to look at the screen anymore to know where the film is at.

            The sing song stutter thing in Jagga trailer made me think of The King’s Speech. I still watch that film every few months. I hate it when “original” films make me think of movies I’ve seen before.

            There is a sense of deja poo (and I mean deja poo) with Bollywood releases of late. And I hate it that they’re so condescending that they think we the adult audience and the kids we’re raising in urban India won’t be familiar with international films enough so they can pull this crap and we’d love it because it’s “different”.

            This ain’t different. It’s too familiar actually. We’ve watched Tintin, we’ve watched A Series of Unfortunate Events, we’ve watched Hugo and those other gazillion highly stylized films that had stories we remember.

            Not to sound disrespectful of Karthik’s views but I do love your style of writing Margaret. It feels like a friend from college is giving me her expert opinion on something that’s her area of expertise. I could get my Indian film reviews from an established Indian critic but, as a writer, I can totally sense when an article got wrote because it was work.

            PS, I’ve wondered if you’re familiar with popular Indian/hindi writers. Because our films don’t do our storytellers any justice.

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          • I am not familiar with popular Indian writers, not as much as a should be. Partly because it is hard to find good translations. I tried to read Devdas and Parineeti back when I first saw the films, and the English versions didn’t have any poetry in the language, and were heavily edited down.

            I read Guide back when I first saw the movie, and that book was really interesting, and I could tell it was written in English by someone who was a master of English, so a lot more interesting language than a bad translation of Devdas. I’m considering whether or not to go back and read more by him, I feel like Guide is probably his best work.

            and then there’s Chetan Bhagat! I’ve got a couple of friends who have read his stuff and said it is very readable, but my impression is, not really “great literature”. Oh, and if Karan ever gets around to making that Immortals movie, I will have to read that series.

            All that being said, I am absolutely open to suggestions!

            On Sat, Jul 15, 2017 at 11:18 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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          • If you can find a decent translation, read Munshi Premchand. Some of his classic short stories got made into amazing films like Do Bigha Zameen and Kafan.

            His Boodhi Kaki and Nasha are stories that jumped to my mind when I was reading your high concept/low concept take. The Mansarovar anthology is amazing as a whole. I’ve always thought they’d make such great films if someone wanted to make them.

            Another one of my favs in hindi is Shivani Pant. She gets dark though but she has some amazingly powerful female centric stories.

            Sadat Hasan Manto is urdu but again amazing works that tell you deep, layered, complex stories that make you think.

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          • Thank you! I will try, but I strongly suspect there will be no good English translations.

            Kind of a good thing! My library system has a massive collection of original works in all kinds of Indian languages (my Telugu speaking college roommate used to check them out). So I think the lack of translations is more because the originals are still in living breathing languages so no need to change to English.

            On Sun, Jul 16, 2017 at 8:08 AM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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          • Premchand is classic hindi lit from the early 20th century so there might be really decent translations out there. His hindi isn’t taxing and neither are his themes.

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          • Yaaaaaay! He is at the fancy downtown branch! Which will be a fun adventure, I get to go downtown and see the fancy library (there are gargoyles!)

            On Sun, Jul 16, 2017 at 8:18 AM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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          • It’s such a cool building. It’s my “if I was rich enough that i could live in any building in the city, I would live here” pick.

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          • I get that feeling about Anand Bhawan (nehru family house in allahabad).. And Viceregal Lodge Shimla 😁

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          • I understand the ire at what seems like derivative work, but it is not always bad to borrow or imitate. Basu himself earlier did acknowledge the references he quite deliberately made in Barfi for example. There are many other such “inspiration” things that are acceptable IMO so long as they’re done well and not just ripped off. Same criticism was mentioned at Rajamouli for that shower of arrows shot in B2 being similar to some Hercules movie or something and he was rightfully annoyed by that.

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          • The “done well” part is the tricky part. Because ultimately, that’s a judgement call on the part of the viewer. To me, this film was inspired by other similar works without adding anything new to them. If you go through my archives, I have an article somewhere comparing Argo and Airlift and talking in general about why I like “inspired by” Indian art, I feel like it allows for a different kind of artistic experimentation than we see in American art where copyright rules are so strict. But in this case, I didn’t feel so much like Basu was in conversation with the original filmmakers, as simply repeating their words back to us.

            To put it another way, to me, Basu felt like Tiger Shroff imitating Michael Jackson, instead of Prabh Deva building on Jackson’s steps and turnign them into something new.

            On Sun, Jul 16, 2017 at 3:16 AM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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            Liked by 1 person

          • Yup. Disney Hollywood does plenty of the same thing. Bright colors, big fantasy set ups, almost animated film sort of acting and yet every film looks and feels different. Even when it’s literally a story that’s been told a gazillion times before.

            Or maybe the reason why this style of filmmaking doesn’t work for Indian audiences because we live, in real lives, in so much color and dramatic OTT emotions are like boring Sundays with the family to us.

            You know how the first thing India noobs say is “Oh wow, I love all the colors!” and we’re listening to that like “Huh?! What exactly do you mean?” Maybe it’s that’s what isn’t “working” with the Hollywood-style production.

            Movies like Delhi-6, Delhi Belly, Wasseypore, Ishqiya series, Highway (I so loved how they didn’t alter Himachal to look like a Mumbaikar’s vision of what it should look like), all these are already exploring the “colors” that we see around us naturally. The exotic locales have been done to death too.

            TBH, the overload of colors in JJ made me feel like I was walking into a high end preschool, screaming toddlers in costumes included (we don’t dress our toddlers in normal clothes for some odd reason! They’re all in fairytale outfits in public!)

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          • That’s part of what bothered me, Indian film already has an established style which includes coming of age stories, beautiful visuals, etc. etc. Why borrow from Hollywood instead of building on what you already have at home?

            Random comparison, Byomkesh Bakshy! Which I loved. And which was clearly influenced by Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes’ stories. But was also recognizably Indian in so many ways. Indian classic story as the base, real sense of an Indian location, romance that made sense in Indian culture (a few moments of meeting followed by a proposal), all of that. Whereas this one felt like it was 100% Hollywood, with nothing to translate it into Indian film.

            On Mon, Jul 17, 2017 at 12:53 AM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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            Liked by 1 person

          • With Byomkesh, the comparison was always going to be with the locales and feel of the classic tv series. I remember it being more contrast-y than the sepia heavy tones we saw in the film. That’s something that irks me about fictional depictions of historic Calcutta. They always overuse sepia tones for that that city while for other cities they go gray and white. I blame the coffee house culture for it! 😁

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          • My favorite historical version of a city was Bombay in Teri Meri Kahaani. Because they want with over-saturated colors, it felt like watching a classic Shammi Kapoor movie. Which is as unrealistic as anything else, but kind of knowingly unrealistic.

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          • Hah! I love those old studio set films. 80% of the reason why I loved Om Shanti Om was because it felt so genuinely old timey

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          • What I loved in the film? Hardly anything, apart from the obvious Ranbir’s complete ownership of that role and DOP Ravi Varman’s gorgeous cam work.

            But yes cons far outweigh the pros in this film sadly. Bad writing, boring to watch overall. Then again like I said I’m still willing to give a teensy bit of credit to at least try this kind of film in India but it probably needed someone with a far more imaginative mind and convincing storytelling ability to pull it off a la Rajamouli.

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          • Why? Credit where credit’s due and nowhere else. Salman is still technically “trying” and yes Tubelight WAS out of the box if you want to get technical. Doesn’t mean it should be given credit and put on the same level as filmmakers who are out there actually trying to innovate. I really find it very disrespectful that you chose to use downright confrontational words for people who didn’t think too much of a film that even you didn’t like.

            You accused Margaret of venting but amusingly that’s exactly what you did yourself on two separate posts.

            No cookies for you, mister!

            Liked by 1 person

  6. I have not watched Jagga Jasoos and has no intentions of watching it either.Granted the Kapoors have been producing stars for generations and they have done a stellar job of entertaining us.But Ranbir and Kareena are the only ones who have the capacity for any amount of depth or subtlety.But both of them are not really willing to upset the apple cart and do more (experiment) different roles (much).They would rather stick with what’s comfortable (their bread and butter) and experiment a little just so they can say “I’ve dabbled in parallel cinema too.”

    Ranbir has a tendency to do what I call Peter Pan roles.Him being unmarried tends to merge his real self with his roles.But he is capable of so much more.Just consider Rajneeti and Rocket Singh.In the former he played a character Samar (or Summer as his girlfriend calls him),who not only accepts his responsibilities but steps up as the head of the family after his father dies.His mother and elder brother follow his directives.And in Rocket Singh not only does he come up with a brilliant idea but sells it to his clients and colleagues who consider him young and their junior.Unlike Samar he does not inherit his position and authority here.So the problem is not that Ranbir is not talented.But he does not have the talent for picking the right roles,experimenting more often.And plain unlucky to boot.

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    • Rocket Singh worked on so many levels. It was original. The story was original. We wanted to know what happens next. We were emotionally involved in that character because we’ve all had bosses like that and work problems. Ranbir looked like he accepted the challenge of the role. Kareena has the excuse of Indian cinema not writing good, female roles. Ranbir, on the other hand, has the advantage of being a male, a star kid, a few hits behind him, enough connections to have a good solid film made.

      In choosing what you correctly call Peter Pan roles he’s being lazy. He’s being uninterested in his profession.

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      • Most people in India (and even the rest of the world) get into films for the same reason most people go into any profession or job — to make a living, sometimes a very lucrative living. They’re not in it for “Art” with a capital A, despite calling themselves artists whenever they want some privilege. So I don’t get where this whole business of wanting actors to “stretch themselves”, to “experiment” is coming from. In one way I find that to be a very self-indulgent and even irresponsible exercise. Cinema being a collaborative medium, the livelihood of everyone involved in the production are dependent on the film doing well. (Need I remind everyone the trouble Anushka Sharma had in getting paid for her work in Bombay Velvet after it crashed, despite her fee being exactly one tenth that paid to Ranbir, which was paid up front?) For a lead actor, and especially a director (as happens more frequently in Hollywood) to indulge in some personal vision or ego gratification is jeopardizing the lives of hundreds of people, who don’t have the kind of cushioning these people do. On top of being a collaborative medium, film is also a medium of mass communication — meaning that, the exercise isn’t complete until the film finds a receptive audience. So, if Ranbir, or any other actor, has found a comfortable place where he can be sure of getting hits one after another, why shouldn’t he keep repeating such roles? Some people might get bored and stop watching his films, but as long as there are significantly more people who want to watch him in those roles than not, why should he stop? What right does anyone in the audience have to demand experimentation or stretching from the actor?

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        • Is he getting hits though? Is he making the kind of profits that would justify doing the same role over and over again? If the motive is to make money and you’re not really making enough money what’s the point exactly?

          I believe actors also have to worry about their resumes. I like to use Alia Bhatt as an example of what legacy stars CAN do but won’t.

          I agree that as producers of the product they have the right to decide if they want to continue making the same film and same character over and over again. Of course as consumers we have the right to say no thanks I’ve seen this film before. I don’t want to pay already overpriced fare (because you’re a star so you get to ask us more than the other non-big star feature playing in the same multiplex) plus 28% luxury tax (plus upto 30% state entertainment tax because I’d rather watch the smaller offbeat film that gives me more value for my money.

          In India, cinema is effectively the primary means of entertainment. Our television industry is doing the made-for-masses soaps 24/7 already and they have almost no variety to speak of.

          Plenty of our top stars have stuck to commercial cinema. SRK is the biggest example. Even he can’t make masala formula films work anymore can he?

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        • I don’t think we are demanding it from the actor so much as the star. Like you say, film is a collaborative medium and people need to make money. Ranbir has the possibility of spreading and expanding the reach of the Hindi film industry. But instead, he is staying in one small place, and keeping the films he stars in within that small space as well.

          Compare him with, for instance, Ranveer Singh. He did well with cocky young love stories, and could have just stayed in that lane. But instead he took a risk with Ramleela and ended up opening a new market and new kind of genre. And then Befikre failed, but it was something really different. Lootera, Bajirao, all of those were films that pushed the envelope not just for him as an actor but for the industry as a whole. And his star power helped that. And, conversely, they helped his star power. Ranbir feels, to me and I think to the other commentators, like he is stagnating. He isn’t growing as a person, and he also isn’t using the star power he has to help the industry grow.

          On Sun, Jul 16, 2017 at 7:30 AM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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          • Ranveer is either having a bipolar episode or doing coke or some other pharmaceuticals. My family has had people with both kinds of afflictions so I can tell when someone is being a regular energetic guy, when they’re on something and when they’re having an episode.

            My bet is on bipolar AND doing coke. I watched him in the commentary box during the ICC Champion’s Trophy and he was bouncing off the walls. It was scary!

            Jackie Shroff too showed up literally high on coke on The Kapil Sharma show this once and it was incredibly apparent.

            Staying in the topic of drugs in the industry, Tollywood was on national news last week for bring sorta maybe associated with drugs. The news report didn’t name names but Tollywood watchers and outlets that cover south industry brought up names like Rana, Puri Jagganadh, Prabhas, Trisha, Tamannah, and a whole bunch of industry regulars.

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          • Ranveer definitely does not seem right somehow sometimes. Although it’s still possible that he is just putting on a show of energy because he knows it will get him in the press when he does stuff like that.

            Interesting since Deepika has publicly come out and talked about her depression. If he is bipolar, I wonder how they handle that in their relationship, two people with mental issues. I know it’s possible and all that, I just hope they have some kind of backup if their episodes align. Or maybe it’s good for them, to be with someone who can understand what is happening.

            On Mon, Jul 17, 2017 at 1:23 AM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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          • I hope he does get help though and isn’t just self medicating as so many people do. Compared to his Ladies V Ricky Behl days his energy levels have gone through the roof. His eyes almost dart. I don’t know how medication dependant deepika is though. She does have periods of weird eye expressions where I suspect she might be on something and not regular meds.

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          • Agreed that Ranbir needs to branch out more. He is literally doing the same role over and over again, in different settings, in different stories, but the characterization is essentially the same and he does it perfectly. But we’d like to see more.

            Ranveer is a lot more versatile. He can do urban (DDD), masala (Gunday), over the top (Ramleela), or warrior genre (BM). He can do a Lootera, and be flamboyant and likable in BBB and he’s different in different roles, not just changing hairstyles.

            Ranbir owes it to his talent to move out of his comfort zone as an actor.

            Liked by 1 person

          • Once again I simply do not get the overly harsh criticism of Ranbir, careful what you wish for really.

            Ranveer is what some 7 years into his career by which time Ranbir had garnered critical acclaim in such roles as Ajab Prem, Rocket Singh, Raajneeti, Rockstar, Barfi and YJHD. Each one different on many levels from every other role. If that is not range and versatility I do not know what is. Agreed he has tried and failed at mass commercial cinema but so has Ranveer. All Ranveer has of note is Lootera, Ram Leela and BM so far. And for what it is worth depending on how much respect one gives for the Filmfare awards (it is the oldest in Indian cinema after national awards not sure) Ranbir already had like 4 wins and as many nominations as well. Ranveer has one win and one nom.

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      • Oh shoot, I should have scrolled down! Yes, exactly. I am sure he is being offered a wide range of films and a wide range of characters. If he had tried out a variety of things when he was starting out and now, a decade into his career, knew what he could do well and stuck with it, that would be one thing. But I don’t think he ever even tried. He just kind of stays in one lane.

        Which only bothers me because, like you say, he has so much critical cred and family power, and he isn’t using it to experiment. If he was, say, John Abraham, I wouldn’t care. Although actually, John Abraham has experimented and tried way more things!

        On Sun, Jul 16, 2017 at 6:38 AM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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        • Like I said, I look at Alia and I instantly see what the other legacy stars are doing wrong. They’re so stuck in that comfort zone that they’re either not waiting for good roles (and getting busy with the kind of roles they already know so well) or they’re giving the offbeat roles a pass because they’re afraid of their “image”.

          Alia as the bihari migrant worker in Udta Punjab hit such a sweet spot. She didn’t need to be the glamorous pretty bihari migrant worker. She could do the dirty, unwashed migrant worker who gets raped over and over again. She could. She made it look like an easy role to do. And she’s out there experimenting and not just sticking to the girl falling in love stereotype.

          I think Ranbir’s problem is that he know he can’t do action. There are better action stars already. If a guy in his 30s isn’t doing action in Bollywood and he isn’t doing experimental cinema, there isn’t much for him to do other than chocolatey roles. Which is what he’s doing. Sad.

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    • I wonder, is he turning down roles that might give him more stretch? Is someone coming to him and suggesting he take the lead in A Gentleman or Judwaa 2 type films and he is turning them down? I assume so, because he is still a big enough name that anyone would want him in any film. On the one hand, I would say that it is good to know what you can do well and stick with that. But then on the other hand, he has experimented so little, it almost seems like he is afraid to even try something to find out if he is good at it.

      Comparing it with Kareena, who of course was also launched at a different time and as a heroine which gave her more flexibility, but she did Refugee, Asoka, Kabhi Kushi Kabhi gham, all right in her first few years. Very different roles in very different films. She sort of found her place as the bouncy confident heroine, but right in the middle of that she also made Dev and Chameli. It’s not really fair to compare, because there was so much less pressure on Kareena versus Ranbir, but she did seem to take roles and kind of try things out right at the beginning in a way I don’t remember Ranbir doing.

      On Sun, Jul 16, 2017 at 4:38 AM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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      Liked by 1 person

      • True. What sucks for Ranbir is that even when he’s got a sort of challenging role, it comes with a story that makes no sense. Like Tamasha. I watched the trailer and that dialogue “tumne mera tamasha bana diya” pulled me into it so hard. It felt like one of the many arguments I had had in the bad messy relationship. I wanted to see what that was about. The raw emotion. The part where neither is wrong or both are. I wanted to know how she made a tamasha of him.

        I didn’t get that from the film at all. The film was one WTF moment after another. The power of that one dialogue was just not supported by the story. The character felt like he had a mental disorder more than a mental block. I would hold an intervention for him with men in white coats ready to take him away if he resists.

        Ranbir can continue doing the same happy funny guy in a messy relationship story all he wants but there needs to be proper stories for them to be set in and each role needs to be nuanced to feel like a different person. Like what was being talked about in the Prabhas post the other day where it was revealed that he worked on the characterization in Mr. Perfect to ensure the guy didn’t come across as a piece of work for being so uncompromising.

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        • From what I have heard, I think Ranbir is too much of a director’s actor. He will dig deep and come up with characterizations and all of that. But he doesn’t do the kind of discussion that Prabhas had with Rajamouli or other stars routinely have, where they say “change this plot point, tighten the script here, add a comedy scene, put in a song, and the film will be better,” If it were just the one film where you notice his performance is perfect but the script is a disaster, I wouldn’t blame him, but it happens over and over again ever since Saawariya so I kind of am blaming him. Part of his job is supposed to be fixing the script!

          On Mon, Jul 17, 2017 at 1:07 AM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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          Liked by 1 person

        • “”The character felt like he had a mental disorder more than a mental block.””

          True!
          I liked Tamasha, but Ranbir left me like : Ok, he can act but what he wanted to tell me? I found his acting and his character incoherent. There was something missing. Maybe it’s not his fault, I don’t know.

          And I couldn’t agree more with you all about Ranbir being lazy / scared when it cames to choosing roles.

          Liked by 1 person

  7. @Margaret I’m pretty sure David Dhawan never thought of casting anyone besides Varun in Judwaa2 🙂 But Ranbir so much more talented than Siddharth.Acting in A Gentleman would have been a breeze for him.That is experimenting within the mainstream Bollywood genre.As you say Ranveer has done a stellar job experimenting within the Bollywood genre.Lootera is really the most offbeat he’s ever done.And I wouldn’t necessarily count it among parallel cinema.I really don’t understand why any actor would refuse the chance to experiment.It’s not as if Ranbir has some pressing need for money.To put it simply, if you were given a box of crayons why on earth would you just stick with one colour?

    @Asmita Prasad Oh yes.Rocket Singh appeals to all disillusioned idealists who had their eyes pried wide open at work.That aside, I’m so angry at Yash Raj for not giving Shimit Amin another chance.C’mon they’ve forgiven others who have delivered flop upon flop.

    Liked by 1 person

    • oh sure, Judwaa 2 wouldn’t even be MADE if it weren’t for Varun. But I know you get my point.

      I suppose it is possible that Varun isn’t even being offered these kinds of roles. But i just can’t imagine that, as one of the most famous young actors, surely every producer/director wants him and he is being offered a whole variety of roles, and just choosing to stay in the same thing over and over again. I’d love to see him in a smart action comedy, an Andaz Apna Apna type anarchist comedy thing, or a dark heist movie or cop film.

      On Sun, Jul 16, 2017 at 9:39 AM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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      Liked by 1 person

    • Lootera was such a treat. One of my favorite stories PLUS the treatment was sooooooo good. You literally cannot beat a good, solid story!!! The outfits made me think of my grandfather’s clothes from old family pictures!!

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  8. Your review was a pain to read. I skimmed through the first few paragraphs and thought, why waste time on this crap. One, you are not a critique (Not a professional one anyway). Two, All we hear is a angry person expecting to see the same old Bollywood style movie where you can predict every single line, action and drama. Three, ITS A MOVIE, enjoy it, if you can’t, go watch something else. Not everything has to be what you like. Ur disappointed? Too bad. Some people do like it, maybe it was meant for them and not pretentious, wannabe, hot heads like you!

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    • I’m sorry you didn’t like the review, although I wish you had taken the time to read the whole thing, or at least fully read the first few paragraphs, before commenting. I can’t really intelligibly respond to your criticism since you didn’t fully read my content. I am sure it was meant for people who would like it, but it was not meant for me.

      Liked by 1 person

      • You’re only a real success in the film review world if people take the time out of their busy lives to leave you an angry comment, Margaret!! 😁

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    • Could you tell us your review of the film dear? 😁 specifically what exactly made the story so great that we should pay to go watch it in theatres. A proper analysis using bullet points would be nice. 😁

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