It is quite shocking, and fairly dispiriting if one knows the Internet, that no one has yet come up with a Prakash Jha movie generator. Especially his filmography post 2000, of which Gangaajal and Apaharan are the most successful and well received ones. We have heard of Dan Brown and Chetan Bhagat book generators but nothing for Jha yet. First, we need a fictional town in Bihar that could really be anywhere in Bihar or Uttar Pradesh or at times even Madhya Pradesh. We need a corrupt politician or a corrupt cop and most times both colluding to wreck havoc in a land where, according to its subjects, the emperor wears new clothes everyday. There will be a villain who is working with the evil capitalists and a hero who is socialist or we can have an anti-hero socialist. But whatever the politics of the film, in the end violence solves everything. Also, there will be a character that dies first to set the ball rolling. This is disaster filmmaking
The greatest trick Jai Gangaajal pulls is convincing us that this is a Priyanka Chopra film. Yes, this was all with the pre-release publicity. Gangaajal came in 2003 and was well received both commercially and critically. You could go as far as calling it the last compelling film Prakash Jha made. It’s only surprising that a sequel took more than a decade to come. In 2016 though, it made sense to do a reboot/sequel of sorts but this time with a female lead. Priyanka Chopra is the feisty cop in a land that is typical of any Jha film – thriving thugs, corrupt politicians, lawless police officers. You get the drift. But then Jha pulls the rug from under you. It is his film and that is not just in the way a film belongs to its director. You see, he has also acted in it. In fact, Jai Gangaajal is about B. N Singh, the corrupt cop played by Prakash Jha. Priyanka Chopra, as sad as it is to say it out loud, is just window dressing, the one to shine in the trailers and film publicity to get a good opening for the film.
The idea is to play the good cop – bad cop routine on the script as a whole and while that is a noble one, Chopra’s Abha Mathur is shortchanged and there is no payoff to be had from her actions as SP in Bankipur. The worse part here is it is not even Priyanka Chopra’s fault. Jha the actor hijacks the film in totality and we never get a good reason why the bad cop goes through the whole purification process – ganga snan so to say. Mathur tells Singh that she needs saaf pani to cleanse the system but then she never gets there. When you go down to clean the sewers, you get your hands and legs deep in filth. Puzzlingly, Jha wants to keep Mathur away from all that. It is B.N Singh who does all the dirty work. On the way, Jha in his patented brand of pop politicking, makes some uncomfortable suggestions about mob justice. Thankfully nothing in the film sticks. Not even the whole simplification. The only troubling takeaway from Jai Gangaajal is that it is a man’s world and one needs a man’s man to take care of the job. Shivani Roy from Mardaani thinks it is cute.
(An edited version of this was published in The New Indian Express)