Jai Ho Democracy
Annu Kapoor, Om Puri
Every once in a while a movie that promises something fun but fails to keep its promise, is released. These try hard to fly but instead fall flat on the ground. This week Jai Ho Democracy has the unfortunate honour of clinching the aforementioned title.
Jai Ho Democracy is directed by Ranjit Kapoor who co-wrote the satirical classic Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron. However, the story of this film feels like a Saturday Night Live parody skit, which has been expanded into a feature film. A hen finds itself on the border of India and Pakistan, to which both countries claim ownership. A cook from Indian army is sent over to retrieve the chicken, much to the furor of the Pakistan army, which threatens to open fire. The tussle between the two countries turns into a war of expletives. Soldiers on each side abuse each other and even cajole the chicken to pick a side. Meanwhile in the Indian war room, a bunch of cartoonish experts get together to assess the situation and indulge in even sillier bickering.
The concept is certainly interesting, as the film tries to parody the uneasy relation between India and Pakistan, and also the political thumb wrestling that accompanies the LoC tension. The film also takes pot shots at the level of political discourse in the country with a huge ensemble of fine actors including Annu Kapoor, Om Puri and Satish Kaushik, and even dramatic actors like Seema Biswas, Adil Hussain and Aamir Bashir.
The problem is in the execution of the comedy, which is done without a shred of exuberance or timing. The Chief Justice played by Annu Kapoor lifts his lungi, climbs a table and swears in a South Indian accent. Right wing politician Om Puri does sit ups as punishment for offending a colleague, and another politico watches porn, an unsubtle nod to the real-life parliament incident. The satirical elements in the film are either over-the-top or stereotypical in nature, both of which fail to render any laughs. The film also indulges in sending out awkward messages on the need to maintain peace between India and Pakistan, which seems out of place amongst all the silliness at play.
To its credit, Jai Ho Democracy doesn't have the grating melodrama of similarly themed films like Kya Dilli Kya Lahore and the only thing that changes in the narrative is the outlandishness of the plot and characters. It's a pity that the film opted to choose over-the-top buffoonery over well-conceived satire. Its a missed opportunity.