A top female lawyer is forced into defending a criminal after her daughter is abducted. ‘Jazbaa’, based on Korean thriller ‘Seven Days’, is fashioned as a hard-edged courtroom-drama, where the protagonist wears sharp power trouser suits and wields a smart mind, and the tale is sprinkled with kinks, drugs, rape, violence and murder.
The trouble with the film, all familiar green-tones and dark angles and panoramic views of the Mumbai skyline, is that it sticks too close to its brief, which is, clearly, to bring Aishwarya Rai Bachchan back in our midst. And to topline her above all else. Result: Aishwarya Rai Bachchan is not just an element in the crime drama. She is framed as any superstar Bollywood hero would: too many solo scenes, a great deal of slo-mo, and lots of opportunity for her to ‘act’. Says a character in the film, “yeh Bollywood hai”. The statement is redundant: if ‘Jazbaa’ was as taut as its origin, the lead actor would be complementing and pushing the theme, not created simply to overpower the whole.
It’s not as if Aishwarya Rai Bachchan gets Anuradha Verma, the anguished legal eagle who takes up cudgels for people whose guilt is beyond doubt, all wrong. In the scenes in which she has to be matter-of-fact, where she is recounting facts and bringing up counter-arguments, she uses her star-power just right. In the others, she is over the top, see-sawing between hysteria and over-wroughtness. And has you wincing.
And that’s pretty much the case with the film, convoluted and over-plotted, as a whole. Sanjay Gupta’s ability to create menace and a sinister sense of place is overwhelmed by the film’s need to showcase the lead actor. It spills over into the way the solid supporting cast comes off, as characters meant to buoy the central figure around whom the action revolves: Atul Kulkarni as the public prosecutor, Jackie Shroff as an ambitious politico, Chandan Roy Sanyal as the accused. Shabana Azmi, attired in the most gorgeous handloom saris, has an interesting part, and gets in some traction, though. As does, of course, Irrfan, who gets to chase bad guys, throw his fists about, and send a nod and a wink our way.
Now if only Aishwarya Rai Bachchan could have underplayed.
Jazbaa star cast: Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Irrfan, Shabana Azmi, Jackie Shroff, Chandan Roy Sanyal, Atul Kulkarni, Siddhant Kapoor
Director: Sanjay Gupta