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Jagga Jasoos

Rating: 2

July 14, 2017

Cast: Ranbir Kapoor, Katrina Kaif, Saswata Chatterjee, Saurabh Shukla

Director: Anurag Basu

The simple story of a young man’s search for his missing father is served up with a large dollop of whimsy in “Jagga Jasoos”, Anurag Basu’s ambitious but exhausting musical starring Ranbir Kapoor and Katrina Kaif.

Ranbir is Jagga, a young fellow with a pronounced stutter who has learnt to communicate by singing his words. That idea was suggested to him by a goodhearted man (played by an excellent Saswata Chatterjee), who mentored him in his youth then vanished without warning. Jagga, who has grown into an intrepid boy detective, enlists the help of Shruti, a clumsy journalist played by Katrina, to help him search for his foster father.

This is a film that begins in West Bengal in the mid-nineties, opening with the infamous Puralia arms-drop incident that made headlines at the time. From there “Jagga Jasoos” evolves into a rollicking adventure through Manipur, taking a pit stop in Kolkata, before moving to picturesque locations in Africa.

The vision is admirable but the execution is indulgent. Basu stuffs the narrative with too many ideas and as a result the film is an overlong mess.

After opening nicely with charming scenes between a young Jagga and the father figure he knows as ‘Tutti Futti’, the film piles on the pounds. A track in which Jagga solves the mystery of a school teacher’s death plays on far too long, and the continuing subplot about spies and arms dealers is convoluted and distracting. There’s a rogue intelligence officer (Saurabh Shukla), bumbling cops, and even a reference to Subhash Chandra Bose and the Independence struggle. Basu also throws in a two-headed villain for good measure, by which point I suppose it’s fair to make the joke that just one focused head would’ve been enough to fix the problems with this film’s script.

But it’s not as if nothing works. Ranbir Kapoor is expectedly in very good form, endearing himself to the viewer with a lovable performance, revealing the sort of solid comic chops that he hasn’t had to flex since Ajab Prem Ki Ghazab Kahani. Katrina too, comfortably pulls off the comedic bits, but lets her leading man do most of the heavy lifting.

Pritam’s music is inventive and infectious; and the film’s format really gives the composer an opportunity to fly. Ravi Varman’s camerawork also deserves special mention; the film is exceptionally shot. This is a movies made with passion, powered by some great ideas and an experimental spirit. A scene at a birthday party in which a stray line of dialogue becomes the chorus of a musical number is just one of the best bits in the movie. There are others too, rare moments of genuine feeling.

But it’s a shame “Jagga Jasoos” is never more than the sum of its parts. The film’s heart – the moving father-son dynamic – is buried somewhere under all the manic Tintin-like adventure and the sensory overload it triggers. Clocking in at 2 hours and 49 minutes, much of what’s good in the film is lost amidst the many indulgences.

I’m going with two out of five. It’s a disappointment, no question about it, from a team capable of so much more.

(This review first aired on CNN News18)

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