Jalsa movie review: Vidya, Shefali struggle with half-baked characters | Bollywood - Hindustan Times

Jalsa movie review: Vidya Balan and Shefali Shah struggle to engage audience with half-baked characters

ByMonika Rawal Kukreja
Mar 18, 2022 12:07 AM IST

Jalsa movie review: Suresh Triveni's film stars Vidya Balan as a journalist and Shefali Shah has the caretaker of her son.

Much gets said and written when a female-fronted project is served to the audiences. And in Suresh Triveni's Jalsa, you get to see two such strong and fiery female characters heading the film. It's only obvious to expect a lot of strong dialogues, emotional uproar and dramatically unfolding events, and yes, you get all of that in abundance. But the pace, or rather the manner in which things happen, bothered me throughout. Somewhere, I missed the pre and post interval switch in the narrative. And not giving any spoiler away, the climax might just leave you extremely disappointed. The questions that I was left with after watching the film — is Bollywood ready for such brave and experimental cinema? Is it fair to leave it to the audience to perceive the ending the way they want? In the garb of breaking the norms of conventional cinema, is Jalsa making things a little too complicated for the audience rather than entertain them? (Also read: Deep Water movie review: Ben Affleck and Ana de Armas shine in Adrian Lyne’s comeback thriller about toxic marriage)

Jalsa movie review: Shefali Shah and Vidya Balan in a still from the movie.
Jalsa movie review: Shefali Shah and Vidya Balan in a still from the movie.

However, one thing that works in favour of Jalsa is that it is not trying to make a social commentary, sound preachy or educate audiences about the divide that exists between the classes. There may be many subtle references to these disparities in the society, but never to a point that it bores you.

Jalsa narrates the story of a celebrated journalist Maya (Vidya Balan) and her cook Ruksana (Shefali Shah), who also looks after Maya's specially-abled son Ayush. Things take a turn for worse when Ruksana's 18-year-old daughter Alia meets with a horrifying hit-and-run accident. This unfortunate incident brings Ruksana and Maya at loggerheads and they both try to tackle the situation with a few lies and secrets that cannot be unleashed.

During its entire runtime of 128 minutes, it looks like as if director Suresh Triveni was in a rush to quickly wrap up the film without bothering to turn several pages of the book. Be it back stories of the actors, their traits or why they behaved in a particular way or mere presence of some characters in the story — a lot of it remains unexplained.

For instance, we are never told why Maya and her husband (Manav Kaul) are separated, why Maya's mother (Rohini Hattangadi) lives with her, what's the medical condition her son is struggling with, for how long Ruksana has been working at Maya's house, is there something more between Maya and her colleague and the ambitions of trainee journalist Rohini George (Vidhatri Bandi)— these details, however small, would have definitely added to the story and given depth to the narrative.

Jalsa starts on a great note, and in the initial few minutes, it successfully engages you, making you curious to know if justice would be served. During the course of finding out the truth, we are made to encounter many flaws that exist within the systems of police, politics, media and the rich. And then, how the lesser-privileged are left with barrel scrapings to choose from.

Triveni, who has co-written the film with Prajwal Chandrashekar, with dialogues by Abbas Dalal and Hussain Dalal, paid heed to the story and how it moves forward. But amid all this, the makers didn't pay as much attention to character arcs. They mostly seem half-baked and extremely one-dimensional without too many layers to explore.

Despite such half-hearted character sketches, it's the performances that impress in Jalsa. Vidya Balan is in top form. Sassy as a boss lady, vulnerable as a caring mother and rebellious as a daughter, she plays her part to perfection. The scenes in which she is screaming or trembling in fear, say a lot about her understanding of the character. Complementing her beautifully is Shefali Shah, who delivers a restrained performance. It's unbelievable the way Shah emotes just with her eyes and expressions. She isn't speaking for most of the film yet you relate to her character the most. The conflict she fights against but still keeps it all contained within herself, is moving.

The other actors, as mentioned, have short yet significant parts and do justice to what the story expects out of them. Rohini George's character, if properly etched out, could have helped the film a lot. Nevertheless, Jalsa leaves you with a lot to think, guess, perceive and conclude. Watch it on Amazon Prime Videos starting March 18.

Cast: Vidya Balan, Shefali Shah
Director: Suresh Triveni

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