Jalsa review – hit-and-run Bollywood drama speeds past social issues | Movies


A young girl gets run over at the beginning of Suresh Triveni’s Jalsa, a brutal event that brings to mind Paul Haggis’s Crash, and not in a good way. Just like the painfully unsubtle Oscar winner, here a car accident and coincidences throw a group of people from different backgrounds into difficult dilemmas, forcing them to confront tough moral questions.

Vidya Balan, who also stars in Triveni’s debut Tumhari Sulu, plays Maya Menon, a tough-as-nails reporter priding herself on her unwavering honesty. Her introduction suggests that the film might be a female-driven character study, as Maya is torn between her work and her disabled son. But Jalsa then changes gears dramatically, revealing that Maya is the driver behind the gruesome hit-and-run. To make matters worse, the young girl is the daughter of Maya’s trusted cook Ruksana (Shefali Shah), who has become an integral part of the family.

As Maya hides her terrible secret from Ruksana, the film attempts to make some half-hearted commentary on wealth inequality as it cuts back and forth between swanky apartment condos and grimy working-class dwellings. But the critique is diluted as more characters are integrated into the already overstuffed plot, each representing a particular social stereotype: corrupt cop, obstinate trainee and so on. Like checking off items on a grocery list, Jalsa is more interested in weaving together as many pressing issues as possible, without investing any analytical attention to their causes.

It’s a shame, since Jalsa could have been an effective two-hander for Balan and Shah, who are beautifully effective in the rare moments that they get to share the screen. Instead, what we have is a baffling drama that says very little about either inequality or morality.

Jalsa is released on 18 March on Amazon Prime Video.

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