During a press interview for Jagga Jasoos, when asked the overly-repeated question of just how he managed to keep the faith in director Anurag Basu throughout the turbulent (putting it lightly) 3-year making of the movie, Ranbir Kapoor answered that despite everything, ‘this fucker pulls it off man, when you see the product, you’re like how did he do it??’.
That is as apt a description as any to describe the magical, fantastical and wondrous cinematic experience that is Jagga Jasoos. The ‘fucker’ just pulled it off. In spite of the many hurdles both personal and professional, constant media scrutiny, arguments, roadblocks, delays and disruptions, somehow the visionary genius that is Anurag Basu just pulled it off. To say the film is worth the wait and all the hype would be a colossal understatement to its achievement.
Jagga Jasoos is nothing short of a modern fairy tale and is in every way a children’s film – made with a child-like innocence and purity and aimed at reawakening the child in you. It takes you back to a time when things were far less complicated and engulfs you in imagination, joy and wonder. The film beautifully marries Pritam’s music and Basu’s storytelling such that you can’t tell where lyrics end and dialogue begins, where speech halts and song ensues, where staging ceases, and choreography takes over. The film jumps in and out of song so seamlessly that I found it difficult to keep my foot from tapping or head from bobbing almost throughout its run time and I think it’s fair to say Amitabh Battacharya’s wonderful lyrics deserve a dedicated screenplay credit.
In its musical style, the film has a number of similarities to Edgar Wright’s recent Baby Driver and no doubt Basu would have much preferred his film to have released a few weeks earlier for its concept to have more of an impact. That said, it’s important to note right off the bat that it certainly isn’t for everyone as its concept and unique style will put-off many as most path-breaking, unconventional films usually do. You’ll either entirely buy into its whimsical world or be almost immediately alienated by it.
Basu’s Jagga Jasoos in inventive, imaginative and umpteen kinds of innovative with jumping timelines, perspectives, and frequently bordering on breaking the fourth wall. Basu has a distinct ability to make the stale cinematic, bringing to life the smallest of moments of human connection in such a lovely manner, the way only the most gifted storytellers can. His film has an enchanting, otherworldly charm in every single aspect from music to narrative to acting to its radiant visuals. Damn, those visuals. In cinematographer Ravi Varman what you get is a true artist who enhances the beauty of locations in a way that, travel as you might, I doubt you’ll find these places as alluring in real life as they are in Basu’s world.
But the film isn’t all rhythmic narrative, visual flair and technical showboating. At its centre, it offers some truly unforgettable and gloriously quirky characters who steal your heart – the kind that can only come out of Anurag Basu’s colourfully vivid imagination. Particularly by way of Ranbir Kapoor’s Jagga who is as endearing as he is enigmatic with Kapoor delivering a performance to remember, doing what only he can. Kapoor is also a producer of the film for which he deserves further applause for championing this kind of cinema while most stars are scared of breaking convention in any way.
Arguably the most pleasant surprise, however, is Katrina Kaif who is actually well cast here and doesn’t miss a beat. Now there’s something I never thought I’d say. Basu extracts a winning performance from her, doing well to play to her strengths. Both she and the wider of cast courageously commit so entirely to what could have just as easily become a silly mess. Special mention also of Saswata Chatterjee (Kahaani’s iconic Bob Biswas) who is heartwarming in his portrayal as Jagga’s father. The film also includes one of the most unforgettable cameos from this year which I will leave for you to discover and enjoy. Due credit must also be given to producers Disney who have taken a leap of faith backing this. It’s clear no expense was spared in bringing Basu’s vision to life and it’s not often you see a big studio willing to take a risk such as this, and man has it paid off.
However, the film isn’t without its flaws. While it has everything you might think to ask for from a fantastical family adventure and more, from quirky ingenious good guys to two-headed bad guys to giant fruit sling shots and adrenaline-fuelled car chases, between these and the enchanting musical charm, Basu crams in a lot, arguably too much. At a running time of 3 hours, it struggles at points to maintain a consistent level of engagement. However, in Basu’s defence, whenever you feel yourself coming out of the film, particularly in the far lengthier second half, he always manages to yank you back in somehow. I imagine, It must be difficult for a director to keep reigned in when you know you’re onto something truly special, which Basu clearly was, but a more restrained approach would have certainly done the film some favours.
It’s also not the easiest thing to follow with perhaps one too many showdowns to keep the adventure going and the chase on. There’s are also a number of jumpy action sequences and moments of poor CGI, but Akiv Ali‘s smart editing manages to cover those up for the most part. These don’t, however, take away too much from the magical, musical, fairy tale of an adventure that is the film.
In one of the final scenes, we see Jagga with a deep smile on his face which just refuses to budge – one of resounding relief after a long, arduous adventure had. This is a look I’m assuming Ranbir Kapoor shares today and is indeed one I had on my face by the film’s end.
Jagga Jasoos is a triumph of imagination and visual storytelling offering a gloriously unforgettable experience, I’m going with four and a half stars.