Sunday, March 06, 2016

Jai Gangaajal

I mentioned in the review that I was kind of surprised that this movie wasn't getting a little more notice considering star Priyanka Chopra's current high profile in the USA (and how the producers of the movie have said things along the lines about how it was a trial run or audition for Quantico, sort of easing her into the role of the tough cop), but wondered if maybe that sort of thing worked against her: It doesn't necessarily matter how much Chopra in a sexy dress makes someone's eyes pop out of their head at the Oscars or on Quantico (or the ads for it), the American audience just isn't going to be drawn to her in a subtitled movie, and it's probably not even worth the effort for the theaters showing said movie to make the attempt to reach for the crossover audience. We, as a group, can be shallow.

And, heck, I wonder if her doing so much American stuff gets her out of the eye of the Indian audience, as Apple only has it for a few shows at odd times. Which is fair; I'm pretty sure that it was me and an older Indian gentleman for me at the early show.

I did think of a couple of the Indian guys at work while watching it, though for a reason they'd probably find odd. One is at least second-generation, if not more, and was something close to offended to be told that the most popular sport in India is not cricket, or even soccer, but field hockey, a game played almost exclusively by high-school girls in America. It was a whole thing for at least the rest of the day.

So, I found myself laughing a bit more than I should have when a character was beaten half to death in this movie because the assailant did not use a baseball bat the way they might anywhere else - even in parts of the world where they don't really play baseball, goons seem to find the things, to the point where I wonder if sporting-goods stores report buyers to the police because why else would hey want it? - but with a field hockey stick. But, hey, it was just me and that other guy, who was in the last row 30 feet behind me, so nobody saw it.

Oh, and one more thing: About three of the listings for Indian movies this week had the word "goons" in the official description, which amused me because it's kind of a funny word in America, used less when you mean to indicate a real threat. It just now occurred to me that the word we're more likely to use here, "thug", might be kind of off-limits in India, even if the Thugee cult is pretty much a Western invention.

Jai Gangaajal

* * ¼ (out of four)
Seen 5 Match 2016 in Apple Cinemas Cambridge #1 (first-run, DCP)

I'm not sure how much of a coincidence it is that Priyanka Chopra's most recent Bollywood film is getting is global release on a weekend when she has a fairly high profile in the United States - she was part of the Oscar ceremonies last week and her American TV show returns to the air this weekend - but it probably doesn't hurt. Those venturing to whatever theater in their city shows Indian films as a result may find themselves a bit disappointed; Jai Gangaajal is a middle-of-the-road cop movie that has the occasional spark but could probably do with a little bit less going on over a little less time.

It starts in a reasonably promising fashion, with Bhola Nath "BN" Singh (Prakash Jha) starting a new day in a house far too nice for an honest Bankipur cop to afford and going to work to find out what MLA Babloo Pandey (Manav Kaul) needs done, pointedly making sure he had nothing to do with the hunt for a lackey wanted for kidnapping and rape. Babloo, at the moment, needs BN to help out his brother Pabloo (Ninad Kamat), currently strong-arming poor villagers and a public market off their land to make way for a power plant. BN's boss sees what's going on and decides to shake things up by resigning everybody away from their corruption centers, but a political ally of Babloo's, Minister Ramakant Chaudhari (Kiran Karmarkar) intervenes, replacing the troublesome captain with Abha Mathur (Chopra), on her first superintendent posting and whose family had received a favor or two. This does not, however, translate into her attacking her job with anything short of complete diligence.

Jai Gangaajal is described in some places as being a sequel to filmmaker Prakash Jha's 2003 film Gangaajal, but it's more a variation on the theme - both feature young superintendents given a corrupt unit and gangsters with relations in politics, but there do not appear to be any characters shared between the two. There are probably a fair number of parallels, though, because the story is fairly standard stuff, with the expected moments of intimidation, the guys at the top getting nervous more because the timing is bad than any belief that the honest cops can touch them, the expected crises of conscience. Jha spends a fair chunk of time on the set-up, making sure a fair number of names and faces are familiar before dropping Abha in the middle of it, but not creating anything really new.

Full review on EFC.

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