Prakash Jha. The name is synonymous with meaningful cinema. Cinema that entertains and enlightens as well.
His latest offering GANGAAJAL bares open the jungle rule that's prevalent at some places of India and how an honest cop tries to root it out. Unfortunately, films of this genre have been attempted, recycled and repackaged in various avtaars on Hindi screen before, thereby giving the viewer a been-there-done-that kind of a feel.
By the river Ganga lies the imaginary district town of Tejpur in Bihar. Amit Kumar [Ajay Devgan] is the new Superintendent of Police.
In Tejpur, Amit encounters an ensemble of colourful characters. The uncrowned emperor, Sadhu Yadav [Mohan Joshi], his debauched son Sundar [Yashpal Sharma], the cops who turn a blind eye to the atrocities aroundï¿½
Amit tries to breathe life into the decaying police force and some of his officers begin to trust him and respond. But the shackles of the corrupt system are too strong to break.
Inspiration gives way to frustration. This leads them to seek reckless solutions. And a weapon of revenge [acid] is accidentally discovered.
This weapon of purification becomes a symbol of purification in the hands of the common people. Suddenly, the society transforms into a mob on a crusade, seeking justice and revenge.
The ordinary citizen is suddenly empowered, but dangerously. Soon, the lines become blurred... What is right? What is just? Amit finds himself in a dilemma.
The story of GANGAAJAL bears a striking resemblance to the Manoj Bajpai starrer SHOOL. Of course, Prakash Jha has incorporated some true incidents [Bhagalpur blinding] in the film to make it look different from films of its ilk, but the essence remains the same.
The biggest drawback of the film, besides an oft-repeated plot, is that it's too grim, too dark and too depressing. In the current scenario, when feel-good entertainers are calling the shots, GANGAAJAL is too dry a subject that relies heavily on realism to the point that everything else takes a backseat.
There're no light moments, no romance whatsoever, just one song [that's non-appealing as well, picturised on a dancer!] and not many exciting moments.
Besides, there's an overdose of blood and gore, generous usage of expletives, an undercurrent of violence and tension throughout and sequences that perturb the viewer.
From the scripting point of view, the initial reels are extremely captivating. The introduction of a new character, be it a cop or a hooligan, every ten minutes of the film, keeps the interest alive.
The relevance of the title at the interval point is well explained, but the graph of the film slides downwards in the post-interval portions.
The story gets into the same-old good versus bad mould and it doesn't take much effort to guess what the next sequence would be like. Besides, the story has been stretched unnecessarily and the climax, which should've been a highpoint, is an absolute letdown.
Prakash Jha is not in form this time around. Though a good storyteller, he suffers on account of a skeletal, undernourished screenplay. Also, he has relied on a genre that holds scant novelty for the present-day audiences. The absence of songs and romance is also a major deterrent, which makes it a morbid experience.
Cinematography is alright. The locations of Wai give the film a fresh look. Dialogues are power-packed.
Ajay Devgan does his part exceedingly well, carrying the film on his firm shoulders. Gracy Singh suffers due to poor characterisation and even otherwise, fails to impress. Amongst a horde of character artistes, Yashpal Sharma leaves an indelible impression and Mukesh Tiwari is simply superb. Mohan Agashe and Mohan Joshi are as usual. Akhilendra Mishra is alright.
On the whole, GANGAAJAL has its limitations thanks to its oft-repeated theme. At the box-office, the film may appeal to a select few, but ladies and family audiences will keep away from a film of this genre. Business in U.P. and Bihar should prove to be the best.