Friday, January 14, 2011

NO ONE KILLED JESSICA

Movie review of No One Killed Jessica. Manish Bhardwaj (Mohammed Zeeshan Ayub) wasn’t No One. A pampered son a politician and therefore high on the sense of power that comes with such pedigree, he cold bloodedly gunned down Jessica (Myra), a model doubling as bartender in an elite Delhi restaurant, with a dozen witnesses to the crime, just because she refused to serve him a drink.
A clear open and shut case it was, or could have been. But Manish’s powerful dad, egged on by the murder’s mother’s constant whine “mere Monu ko kucch nahin hona chahiye” no less than by his blind parental love, pulls the strings, coerces witnesses and manipulates the system to get his pyara beta and his accomplices acquitted. Scot free goes the killer, cocking a snook at everyone with his system-mocking impunity.
Not done, cries Meera Gaity (Rani Mukherjee), a feisty news reporter and anchor given to hardball journalism and smoking ciggies and mouthing profanities, not excluding the F word and the desi G word. Joining forces with Jessica’s sister Sabrina (Vidya Balan) who’s been running pillar to post to seek justice for her dead sister and also taking care of her frail parents, Meera sets out to set the wrong right. “Justice has been denied and I can’t live with it,” she yells at her boss, perched doggedly on his car’s bonnet.
And that’s what the film is primarily about: turning the tables on the powers-that-be and giving the aam aadmi one last say.
No one among us, I’m sure, is unaware of the Jessica Lal case on which the film is based. Perhaps that was the root of a niggling apprehension I had before watching No One Killed Jessica. After all what’s the point of making a film now that justice has been done and the killer is wasting away his youth and mid-age behind bars, not considering the one stray parole he got in 2009 to perform the last rites of his grandmother but was caught clubbing. If the objective of the film was mere documentation of what happened in the Jessica case, one might have better browsed through the archives of national newspapers, the headline of one having inspired the film’s title. But no. No One Killed Jessica goes beyond that. It provides a recollection to the – pardon the cliché – ‘collective conscience’ of us as a society that the gun-toting brats with influential papas and mollycoddling mommies can’t have their way if we the people, including the media, set out to see that justice is done.
Kudos to director Rajkumar Gupta – delivering another ace after his debut film Aamir – for making a brave film that keeps you hooked for the most part, dipping only slightly in the second half when it stretches on needlessly. Most impressive is his re-sketch of the entire Jessica case, with characters plucked literally out of real life and their names changed only for storytelling reasons. The witnesses turning hostile, the journalist who’s covered the Kargil war, the defence lawyer, the swish set of Delhi (caricaturized more than they should’ve have been) one after another proclaiming to have seen ‘nothing’ on that fateful night – we all know who these folks are and connecting the dots here can be a sweet sadistic exercise.
No One Killed Jessica rests equally on acting performances as on its director’s storytelling skills. Rani Mukherjee is back. Those who had written her career obit will need to do some rethinking. In a performance, that goes hardly over the top given the character’s sketch, Rani breathes fire, kicks arses, and ah! is totally at home in shooting off cuss words. Vidya Balan comes up with a restrained performance, befitting her character. Neil Bhoopalam (as key witness) and Mohammed Zeeshan Ayub as the killer Manish leave their mark.
Amit Trivedi’s music, particularly the ‘Dilli Dilli’ number, stands out and so does Anay Goswami’s camerawork.
Never preachy, never facetious despite having sufficient doses of satiric humour, No One Killed Jessica is a film that everyone but kids below 18 must watch. If you are looking for a piece of good cinema with some goose bumpy moments, this is it.
Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5