‘Jagga Jasoos’ review — Epic detective caper entertains, equally flounders but doesn’t leave you entirely clueless

Ranbir Kapoor is back at his best in this long, long film that is both  remarkably inventive and painfully uneven. It is made with a lot of heart and earnest handwork which finally makes it’s mark.
by Rutwij Nakhwa

Disney is known to spin big-movie franchises, most notoriously the Pirates of the Caribbean series, based off the eponymous themed ride in Disney land, which recently had its fifth incarnation on the big screen. The story of the film is framed in a weirdly self-referential structure. After a brief intro we end up in a theme park where ‘Jagga Jasoos’ is an attraction.

Inside we find Katrina Kaif, a teacher cum narrator, up on stage, before an audience full of children sporting cardboard head-gear that mimics Jagga’s Tintin-esque hair-do (our detective has much more in common with him). She is introducing the kids, whose point of view the audience often assumes, to various graphic novels of the detective hero ‘Jagga Jasoos.’ This is accompanied by a musical show that kids put with Kaif and lo! we are transposed to the magical world of Jagga’s adventures. Although this all feels a bit contrived it lends the (close to three hour) film the logic to transcend the many confines of realism.

The musical has in a way always been inherent to Bollywood and director Anurag Basu embraces it with open arms, giving it a refreshing take in this mammoth outing. A splendid origin sequence introduces us to a young Jagga, delightfully embodied by the child actor. The backdrop is the picturesque town of Darjeeling.

As a kid he lands up in maternity hospital after his parents die in an accident. The young boy stammers to the extent that he stops speaking all together. Until a badly wounded stranger falls out of a coal train and into his life. This highly clumsy but endearing man is ‘Tutti Futti’ who becomes Jagga’s foster father. He shows Jagga that the way to escape his stammer — in the other side of his brain and the mad-creativity of songs and that’s how Jagga smoothens his speech out, wonderfully punctuating this cinematic journey with ingeniously penned lyrics and delightful melodies. 

Soon, Tutti Futti departs without much explanation, leaving Jagga in a hostel in Ukhrul, Manipur; unknowingly charting the path out for Jagga’s life (and the rest of the film).

Basu seems to have a tremendous knack for extracting charm out of his star Ranbir Kapoor — right to the last drop. He did it in ‘Barfi’ and he does it here again. Kapoor is the coal that pumps blood into Basu’s toy train and also the shiny paint job on the outside that makes it look terrific. Katrina Kaif, sadly, doesn’t always match up. She features in the Jagga stories as well, as the investigative journalist, Shruti Sengupta. She is equally bumbling as Tutti Futti, and like him hell-bent on exposing and thwarting an international arms racket that is at the bone of the overarching story, starting off with the real life incident of the Purulia arms drop. 

Also problematic is the under-cooked and unseemly romantic angle between the teenage school-boy Jagga and the much older journalist. But the pair does manage to recreate their electric chemistry from ‘Ajab Prem Ki Ghazab Kahani’ in some rare moments. 

The production design is top-notch and S. Ravi Varman’s vivid cinematography that captures multiple exotic locales from Thailand to Morocco, combines seamlessly with CG work to create some marvellous images throughout the film.  

However, the film does waver quite frequently. It feels a lot like one of those long-awaited trips that you finally take but end up losing all your luggage (which the lead pair do at one point) and so only half-enjoy the rest of the trip. The luggage here of course is a wholesome narrative. The many twists and turns and meanders for a good part of the 160-min run-time do run you down.

The film genuinely comes into its own in the final act, where are all the loose ends coalesce and everything feels remarkably inspired. All of a sudden sitting through the rest of the film starts feeling worth-while and it only gets better with the delightful reveal at the end. Just for that, you’ve got to watch this one and sit tight, right till its long approaching end.  

Rating 3/5

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