There is a flimsy belief in the West that all Bollywood films are 'musicals'. That is as far from the truth as Jhumritalaiyya is from Timbuktu. If movie buffs in the West (and at home, of course) want to see a real Bollywood musical, then Jagga Jasoos is a great example.
One thing director Anurag Basu gets spot on is the movie soundtrack. In most of his movies – Gangster, Life in a Metro, Barfi! (we aren't a fan of Kites, sorry), the songs are integral to the movie, and this is true of his latest flick as well.
TL/DW (Too long/Didn't watch)
Jagga Jasoos jumps straight into music mode right from the moment you say 'Ja!' The movie revolves around the story of a little orphan, Jagga, who grows up in a hospital. One day he rescues a man who jumps off a coal train. After Jagga gets him to the hospital, they embark on an endearing father-son relationship.
The parent-child equation is turned on its head as Jagga picks Tutti Futti (Saswata Chatterjee, who has a 'real' name in the movie) – tutti taang, futti kismat (broken foot, splintered luck) and lets him play dad. Tutti Futti/Badal Bagchi turns foster father to this kid with the toothy smile, glasses and the stammer.
Tutti Futti asks Jagga to use the right side of his brain and sing instead of speaking, and thus music begins to mix with life – playing in the rain, breakfasts, stories and adventures. But a visit from an ex-cop (Saurabh Shukla) bursts that happy bubble and, before Jagga can ever try to finish a sentence, Tutti Futti is gone.
Another lonely chapter begins in gorgeous Ukhrul (Manipur). Jagga turns his hostel school into a song, carrying on with life by hanging on to the video tapes Tutti Futti sends him every year on his birthday.
One year, the birthday tape does not reach Ukhrul, and that's when the real adventure begins.
Mysteries and music
One thing Jagga inherits from his adopted father is his indomitable knack to find a mystery and solve it. He practices with names and hearts inscribed on school benches, and gets better as he solves a murder, hence the movie's title. The next big thing for Jagga Jasoos is a case that journalist Shruti Sengupta (Katrina Kaif) brings to him.
The biggest mystery Jagga needs to solve is the one about his father. He needs to find Tutti Futti. So off he goes with Shruti in tow.
We'll leave the narrative at that and assure you that you must follow it up.
A lilting fairytale... with a few pitfalls
The song strains you heard in Barfi! get an endorphin boost in Jagga Jasoos. If you saw bits of Chhau in Barfi! here you see glimpses of Bihu. Ranbir and Katrina flit in and out of this fairytale, and all of it is wonderfully soothing to the eye. The cinematography is stunning – Ravi Varman, take a bow.
All is hunky dory – the on-screen chemistry, some great supporting characters, excellently choreographed action sequences – till the 'un-realism' gets a little hard to swallow, even with the sprinkles of rainbows and optimism.
But well, Bollywood has always been about the willing suspension of disbelief, so we will let that slide.
Not picture perfect
For one, it seems that Basu bites off more than he can chew with a narrative that tries to include everything from the Purulia arms drop, to illegal arms trafficking through the Manipur border and bigger conspiracies including 9/11, 26/11 and the works. A very well-filmed scene that brings forth this particular agenda sounds like a rap sheet and throws you back to a dictionary Arundhati Roy created in her latest magnum opus – The Ministry of Utmost Happiness .
Jagga Jasoos has some excellent characters played convincingly by the likes of Saurabh Shukla and Rajatava Dutta (the police inspector in Ukhrul), Saswata and Ranbir Kapoor also do justice to their meaty roles. However, Katrina Kaif doesn't draw you in and Sayani Gupta is wasted.
Katrina looks adorable, but that's about it. The feelings she is supposed to emote flit in and out of her face a little slower than Kristen Stewarts' in Twilight. Her character is given a lot of scope and a chunky backstory to play with, but it all falls flat.
Finally, the film could have been at least 15 minutes shorter.
What redeems Jagga Jasoos
Anurag Basu's million throwbacks to wonderful things we have grown up with. From Sherlock Holmes and Feluda references to Satyajit Ray, Basu strikes all the right notes. Also, the climax of the movie takes you to town called Shundi (the kingdom we chanced upon in Upendra Kishore Chowdhury's story and Satyajit Ray's film Goopy Gyne Bagha Byne).
How Jagga and Shruti stop an evil villain from getting his way is also a direct reference to Goopy Gyne Bagha Byne. Sadly, this will be lost on those who have not read the book or have not seen the movie.
This is not to say that this lessens the appeal of the movie, but to be lucky enough to know the same tales Basu grew up with adds a fresh charm to Jagga Jasoos.
A big twist in this tale is the villain. You only see him at the end, and you wonder – is this homage to Douglas Adams' Zaphod Beeblebrox?!
But Basu leaves you with a vague assurance that there will be another Jagga Jasoos movie. Frankly, we would not mind it the least.
Should you watch it?
Watch it for Ranbir, for Saswata, for the lovely locales, and for the new space Basu has pushed Bollywood into.