Judgmental Hai Kya Review (No Spoilers): Style Over Substance

I did it! I watched it! Just for you all. And it was odd and unpleasant to watch, in a way that I thought was on purpose, but apparently not.

What an odd failure of a movie. Not a noble failure, more of a “we are going to use a lot of flash and bang to hide our failure” kind of film. And after 2 hours, the flash and bang went from being interesting to irritating to disturbing to kind of sickening. Every storefront has an artistic graffito, every costume is unique and over the top, every hair style is slightly off, every police officer is constantly eating with the grossest Foley sounds possible. But underneath all of this is a script that is all flash and bang too, surprises and twists instead of honesty.

Image result for judgemental hai kya poster

The performances are part of that. Both leads were hired because their names tell people “ooo, they are good actors!” But they aren’t actually given anything real to do. It is all posturing and strange line delivery, never anything that makes you feel anything (besides vaguely disturbed). More style, less depth.

I wasn’t disappointed in Kangana because this is what I have come to expect from her. After Manikarnika, after Rangoon, I am losing faith in her ability to deliver a performance that actually connects with her fellow actors, or with the audience. It’s all lisping lines and pop-eyes instead of giving us something to feel. But I was disappointed in Rajkummar. I honestly think any other actor could have played his role. It was a strange character, that didn’t help him, and the director’s obsession with canted angles and weird lighting designs didn’t help either. But at the heart of it, his performance was just blah. Nothing special. Not that anyone will say that, because Kangana and Rajkummar are “supposed” to be good, and this is the kind of movie that is “supposed” to be good, and the kind of characters we are “supposed” to be impressed with. “Oooo, she’s playing someone mentally ill in a way that makes every line sound slightly unnatural! Oooo, he’s playing someone possibly unstable in a way that makes every line sound slightly unnatural!” Well, yeah! Don’t you think that might be easier for an actor, who is after all performing, than to do it in a natural way so we forget they are performing?

Mostly though, the script is a mess. In a very weird way. It’s a twisted plot, so it relies on us at the end going “oh, I see how it all fit together! It makes sense now!” And in the best version of those twisted plots, at the end the audience is confronted with their own assumptions, the process of finally understanding the truth of the film, and how it was hidden in the lies, helps you see how the lies are in the real world. Ittefaq and Badla and Andhadhun all handled this challenge brilliant you.

But at the end of this plot my reaction was more “that doesn’t fit together at all, in a way that makes me feel like the film is expecting me to believe a lie and teaching the audience to go out into the world believing lies as well.”

Truly, the last 15 minutes pulled off one of those classic “twist” endings, only it was such a bad bad twist I kept waiting for it to be undone, for the reality to return. And the final shot is just, well, kind of immoral? And not just immoral because of the reality of the world, but immoral because of the reality the film itself had already showed us.

This is a well-made film with interesting visuals and an original idea. I’m not going to not recommend it, if you liked twisted thrillers and odd visuals, you should see it. But I would also be interested if other people, like me, come out of it with an empty feeling and a realization that there was nothing really there.

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6 thoughts on “Judgmental Hai Kya Review (No Spoilers): Style Over Substance

    • Ugh, I knew it would get great reviews. It’s the kind of style and “groundbreaking” plot that always gets good reviews in India. Meanwhile Arjun Patiala was actually groundbreaking, and fun, and smart, and everyone will be ignoring it because it doesn’t have fancy actors or a fancy style.

      On Fri, Jul 26, 2019 at 9:33 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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    • Oh, and I will be interested in what you think about how the film treats the heroines lack of empathy. To me it feels like more than simply not being able to read emotional cues in others, and more like she cannot read cues and does not care to bother to try.

      On Fri, Jul 26, 2019 at 9:33 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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