The best part about ‘Jai Gangaajal’, director Prakash Jha’s latest foray into the country’s badlands, is a surprise acting turn by Jha himself: as a corrupt-cop-with-a-latent-conscience, Jha looks as if he has been doing this all his life, so comfortable is he in front of the camera.
Too bad you can’t say the same for the leading lady. As the take-charge-policewoman-in-a-tough-posting, Priyanka Chopra comes off as dressed-for-the-part and stilted. You can see she’s trying hard, especially in some of the ‘action’ sequences in which she has to kick and punch and thrash, but she’s far too smooth for this part.
Everything else in this sequel of ‘Gangaajal’, which replaces the khaki-clad Ajay Devgn with Priyanka Chopra, and pouring acid in the eye with a hanging from the nearest tree/post/fan, falls strictly in the seen-before-category. Bankipur, a village over- run by greedy politicians, ‘bikey-huey-cops’, and self-serving locals, could be any Jha ‘gaon’ from his previous films.
The detailing is just a little different—an effeminate ‘chamcha’ (Sharma), a young girl refusing to give up her patch of land (Tamotia), a podgy baddie in colourful shirts (Kamath; nice to see him in a substantial role)—but overall, this is Jha’s much-traversed universe, in which the lawless rule and the law is an ass, till the hero (or in this instance, the heroine) shows up to clean up the mess.
The villains, called Babloo Bhaiyya (Kaul, who’s making it a habit of playing evil pols), and his ‘chota bhai’ Dabloo Bhaiyya, are in cahoots with powerful land-grabbers and goons. Of course SP Abha Mathur (Priyanka Chopra) runs afoul of this mafia, and of course, she is threatened. But this kind of film also needs redemption, so the bad guys are vanquished, and the weak find collective strength to wreck questionable vigilante justice, in order for everyone to go home happy, cynical eyebrows unraised. Read: Jai Gangaajal to be Priyanka Chopra’s real test
But not before we have had many lectures on the sanctity of the uniform, and how, whatever anyone does, it shouldn’t be sullied. And how cops are ‘rakhaels’ of the politicians, who, the film unfailingly suggests, are the worst of the lot. And how the system sucks. “Kuch bhi kar lo par vardi par haath nahin uthaana chahiye tha.” says BN Singh ( Jha), and that is all it takes for him to see the light.
Priyanka Chopra’s too-sophisticated unmade-up-make-up is very distracting, even in her few convincing moments. And the film goes on for far too long, even when we know how all of it will end, and even when we are thoroughly enjoying Jha’s authentic’ leheja’ : ‘aap ko koi galat misguide kiye hain’, he says, and we smile.
I won’t mind watching him again.
Photos: Priyanka Chopra shines at Oscars
Star Cast of Jai Gangaajal: Priyanka Chopra, Prakash Jha, Manav Kaul, Murli Sharma, Ninad Kamath, Vega Tamotia, Rahul Bhat, Kiran Karmakar
Director: Prakash Jha
One and a half stars.
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines