A film that kicks off by doffing hat to the legendary showman, Raj Kapoor (Gardish mein taare rahenge sadaa) goes on to establish his grandson as the tramp of our times. It goes without saying that if Raj Kapoor’s biopic were to be made, Ranbir Kapoor could play the lead with a veteran’s ease. Watching Jagga Jasoos makes one believe that Barfi! was the initial process of laying foundation for this helluva rollercoaster ride.
Musicals, though unexplored in our films (Let’s forget Shirish Kunder ever made Jaaneman. If you’re wondering which film was this, you’re indeed blessed). Hum Aapke Hain Kaun had songs for every occasion, but was far from a musical narrative. The Indian films find their roots in the Ramleelas, which were no less than musicals and later graduated to melodrama after Parsi theatre took the centerstage. So, it’s quite strange we never got this genre right, despite belonging to the land of Ramayana and Mahabharata, the epics which were ‘recited’ rather than being ‘read out’. Well, better late than never.
If AR Rahman made a breakthrough in the broadway musical with Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Bombay Dreams, Anurag Basu cracks the Indian musical code with Jagga Jasoos. The film plays out as a narration from a children’s book and handholds us to a whole new world of love & loss, innocence & acceptance, curiosity & simplicity.
The film solely rests on two wonderful characters, Jagga (Ranbir Kapoor) and his foster father Tuti Phooti (The brilliant Saswata Chatterjee). The ‘taal-mel’ of these two actors is splendidly ‘aww-inspiring’. Such chemistry isn’t found even in the lead pairs or any lead pairs of late, for that matter. Both actors (or rather all three actors, if one were to include the child actor who is equally brilliant as the lil’ Jagga) complement each other. Think of it as a three-hour mime act underlined by seamlessly mellifluous music and punctuated by soulfully simple lyrics. The dialogues don’t matter. They have never mattered in any film with a strong screenplay.
Ranbir Kapoor gives it all to his character and shines across every frame, becoming Jagga, the diffident yet determined, the stammering yet articulate, and the lonely yet lovable character reminiscent of Sherlock Holmes and Satyajit Ray’s Feluda. In fact, the journey that he embarks upon with Katrina’s character Shruti Sengupta (The worst Bengali we have seen on screen, who doesn’t even bother to pretend being remotely connected to Bengal) is imbued with fantasy flavours of Ray’s Goopi Gyne Bagha Byne and Heerak Rajar Deshe. This is quite a welcome change, where our filmmakers are looking within (read country) rather than seeking inspiration elsewhere.
Katrina may have got the Bengali thing wrong here but is nonetheless adorable as a narrator surrounded by kids. Supporting actors like the easygoing ex-IB officer played by Saurabh Shukla and Rajatwa Dutta as the cop surrounded by multiple hued landline phones make their presence felt with their nuanced performances. Saswata Chatterjee steals your heart as Tooti Phooti or Bad-luck Bakshi. One just can’t get enough of this gem of an actor. Having said that, Ranbir Kapoor makes his character endearing, as well as memorable. Once the credits roll, you find yourself already waiting for the sequel. When did you last feel that way, except for the ‘Katappa query’?
Jagga Jasoos is perhaps one of those few films where the music director Pritam and lyricist Amitabh Bhattacharya play the lead role without even appearing in a single frame. Right from the news anchors breaking into a song to the investigation scenes and the confrontation scene of Ranbir and Saurabh Shukla, each situation is unbelievably translated into gripping narrative through music and lyrics. Ravi Varman paints the silver screen with Disney hues and Ajay Sharma deftly edits each scene to perfection.
Through Jagga Jasoos, director Anurag Basu reminds us the long-forgotten art of storytelling. Watch this film and you just might stumble upon the child in you. Well, I just did.