Jana Gana Mana
So this happened last night – this was the first time that I watched a Malayalam film in a theatre last night. And the film which was destined was the Malayalam film Jana Gana Mana. By now you know my love for Malayalam cinema and how they are brave enough to take risks – be it in the form of an unexpected ending or a subject challenging the authorities. I am amazed and overwhelmed each and every time which goes to show that even in their usual lives, they are unabashed and blunt which is a great virtue. Calling out something which is wrong is becoming difficult in the times that we live in. So it is all the more appreciative that they are taking that step through their films(or even otherwise). It was sometime in April when I happened to watch the trailer of Jana Gana Mana.
I remember distinctly that it was a 4 minute trailer which was headed the usual way until the final seconds which actually caught you unaware. It was since then that I really wished to watch the film. But seldom did I think that I would make a trip to the theatre as opposed to waiting for its OTT release. And that happened last night. Probably the first of the many now. But is Jana Gana Mana worth your time, stay tuned.
Story & Screenplay
Jana Gana Mana follows the story of a woman being set ablazed discreetly on the highway. What is the truth behind it? The story is powerful and hard-hitting and it literally takes on everyone in the system – right from universities to media houses to the houses of law or the establishment. And trust Malayalam cinema to take them on without any half measures. The screenplay holds your attention from the very beginning. Here, I would like to compliment the team who cut the trailer as it revealed literally nothing. And there are plenty of spoilers to be had if any plot point is revealed. So as this review is spoiler free, I will just touch upon the usual aspects.
The issue which was raised at the beginning set the ball rolling. So amidst the protests and the chaos, we are introduced to one of the protagonists. His character is designed to be a messiah but is also a pawn of the system in many ways. Through the course of the first half, it seemed like a stereotypical drama of providing justice against the corrupt system and against all the odds. There are a few good twists and turns which manage to hold your attention. But the second half turns the story on its head.
The courtroom drama which forms a major chunk of the second half just shifts gears. So the drama moves at a breakneck pace as opposed to being a slow burn in the first hour. The twists and turns here are hard to predict and they change the complete complexion of the drama. This half ensures that you get a glimpse of how deep rooted politics actually is and how the entire system works like a machinery to create a false image. This is in many ways a bold screenplay which does not hold back and makes a point without beating the bush. The final few minutes setup the foundation for its second part which promises to be another hard-hitting drama. Overall, a brilliant screenplay of the highest order.
Dialogues, Music & Direction
The dialogues are powerful especially in the second hour and they create an instant impact. The songs are excellent and I enjoyed the fact that none of the songs deter the flow of the drama rather they take the film forward. The BGM is exhilarating and definitely keeps you on your toes throughout. The cinematography and production design are top notch. The beginning few minutes give you a curved image to represent current times before going back to the original resolution for the rest of the film. This was a clever way of teasing the audience for the times ahead. Director Dijo Jose Antony has done an excellent job in providing a layered screenplay which is interesting wherein he is able to hold your attention throughout. And the fact that it is unabashed means that it guarantees an impact long after the film has ended. The direction is top notch.
The performances are quite brilliant here. Vincy Aloshious as Gouri is absolutely brilliant with a magnetic screen presence which commands your attention throughout. Sri Divya as Padma shines in a cameo and I feel her character will be a crucial catalyst in the second part. Dhanya Ananya as Vidya is first rate and she has her moments to shine. Mamta Mohandas as Sabha delivers a powerful performance and something that stays with you long after the film has ended. Dhruvan as Shaheen shines despite a limited screentime. Shari as Shabana and Vaishnavi Venugopal as Sana are both brilliant. Suraj Venjaramoodu as DSP Sajjan Singh is absolutely fantastic. By now we all know his range as an actor but to pull off such a twisted character arc is absolutely astonishing. He is well restrained yet takes you on a roller coaster of emotions. Prithviraj Sukumaran as Aravind is barely there in the first hour. But his powerful act in the second hour ensures that he steals the show. His popularity could be judged by the hooting which he got in a multiplex after delivering some powerful lines. He was simply exceptional.
Jana Gana Mana is shockingly brilliant and supremely relevant in the times that we live in today. Available in a theatre near you and Highly Recommended.