Every Ramgopal Varma film is eagerly anticipated. The maker has always attempted diverse themes in the past and his latest flick, JUNGLE, is different from any film seen so far. Reportedly based on the life of Veerappan, the film revolves around four characters:-
Durga Narayan Chaudhary [Sushant Singh] -- The most ruthless killer the law enforcement agencies of the country have ever known. Living deep in the jungle, he rules its dark vastness stretching across the borders of three states. Where beasts feared to tread, Durga made it his home. Where the searing sun could not reach, he scorched in his cold bloodedness. Where the police never managed to catch him, he always killed them. In his savage reign, he killed animals, massacred policemen, slaughtered informers and then one day, he snatched someone's love.
Shiv Raj [Sunil Shetty] -- The daredevil Task Force Commander pitted against an inhuman beast like Durga, he is understandably at a loss. In an unfamiliar jungle of such denseness where you could miss an elephant at ten feet, he is expected to catch a cunning snake like Durga.
Sidhu [Fardeen Khan] -- The charming boy is hopelessly in love with Anu. His only problem till yesterday was whether her father would agree to her marriage, but the problem today is that she has been kidnapped by the dreaded dacoit Durga. The police have thrown up their hands and openly admitted that there is nothing they can do. But knowing that his beloved is somewhere in the jungle, alive and among such savages, can he stay quiet?
Anu [Urmila Matondkar] -- Living in an air-conditioned bungalow and travelling in a luxury car has little prepared her for the trauma of running through thorns and away from predatory animals, not to mention Durga's deadly pack. Caught in the claustrophobic stranglehold of the jungle, under the cover of monstrous trees that do not let even a ray of sunlight, she just lies there, hoping and praying for help she knows may never come.
Unlike his last two films, KAUN? and MAST, Ramgopal Varma is in total command this time. For, in JUNGLE, he strikes the right balance between form and content. A cohesive script and technical finesse have been merged beautifully and that makes JUNGLE an experience to cherish.
The very first scene [titles] give the impression that what one is about to witness is an edge-of-the-seat thriller. After establishing the lovers' characters, the story shifts to the jungles in the second reel itself. The pace gains momentum with Durga and his pack abducting the tourists from dense forests.
The animal instinct of Durga and his pack and the rawness they exude, is where the director scores. There are several sequences which have the unmistakable stamp of Ramgopal Varma, notable among them being the terror the gang unleashes on the tourists and the feelings of Durga for Anu, which results in creating a rift within the gang.
The film abounds in chases in the jungle and each chase is remarkably shot; not once does the camera goes haywire or loses the balance. The outcome can easily be compared to a Hollywood flick. The climax also takes the viewer unaware. The subsequent fight-to-finish battle between Sidhu and Durga are simply remarkable.
Director Ramgopal Varma deserves a pat on his back for choosing an offbeat subject, going in for a star cast that will not make the distributors' heart beat faster and handling the subject with utmost honesty. To state that this is his finest effort, better than SHIVA [his first Hindi film], RANGEELA and SATYA, would be absolutely right.
The cinematography and background music compliment the efforts of Ramgopal Varma. The camerawork is top class and can easily be compared to the best in Hollywood and the sound [background music] is first-rate. Sandeep Chowta's music too is not a hindrance to the goings-on. Each song comes at the right situation and is very likeable.
Every character in JUNGLE has a well-defined role, which is why every performance stands out at the end of the day. Ideally, this should have been Fardeen Khan's first release. The actor emotes well, delivers his lines with confidence and looks nice. Even in the high-charged dramatic scenes, not once does he go overboard. Urmila Matondkar is at ease in a role that gives her ample scope to showcase her talent. Her scenes with Durga can easily be singled out, for they have been shot with brilliance.
Sunil Shetty is in form yet again. The actor seems to be taking giant strides with every film and this is among his finest performances. Sushant lends the right shades to the character of Durga. His eyes convey what is there in his mind and at times, his heart. Kashmira Shah springs a pleasant surprise. She is excellent. Makrand Deshpande is in form yet again. Manmeer Singh and Rajpal Yadav, from Durga's pack, stand out with good performances.
On the whole, JUNGLE has all it takes to emerge a winner. At a time when we crave for something different, within commercial parameters, JUNGLE strikes the right balance between form (technique) and content (script). A must see!