2.5 Good

What a coincidence! 2 films that released this Friday bear titles that begin with ‘J’, for starters! Both films are about characters going from cities or developed places to their underdeveloped villages and trying to bring change and progress. Moreover, the protagonists in both the films were embarrassed with their folks in their respective village and were trying to shield their loved ones from going there. The similarities don’t end here. Both Joker and Jalpari boasted of an interesting idea but the respective directors turned their films into disappointing ventures! More details, later!

The story of the movie: Dev (Parvin Dabas) is a doctor in New Delhi who plans to go to his village Laxmigarh in Haryana to set up a hospital there. His mother (Suhasini Mulay), son Sam (Krishang Trivedi) and daughter Shreya (Lehar Khan) join Dev in his endaevour. Shreya and Sam expected the village to be straight out of a fairy tale. But what they encounter fails to meet their expectations. Ponds and rivers had dried up. Villagers seem to be behaving strangely. Shreya and Sam befriend Ajite (Harsh Mayar) and his ‘gang members’ who tell Shreya-Sam that a witch lives in an abandoned house beyond the hills and no one is allowed to venture to this restricted area. Those who do are believed to have got killed. But Shreya being brave and adventurous decides to head to the witch’s house. And by doing so, she unknowingly opens up a can of worms.

Jalpari is set beautifully in a Haryana village and exposes problems of female foeticide and orthodox thinking that still prevails in the hinterland and which thwarts all-round development. Although the film is not more than 100 minutes long, it has too many unnecessary sequences. The beginning portions of Delhi could have been better and leaves audiences bewildered (Shreya argues with Dev that she wants to go to the village as her holidays have started and the next day she goes to school!). The ‘Neeli Neeli Si’ song doesn’t impress much. One expects things to change when the family reaches village but sadly that doesn’t happen. Thankfully, the characters were quite interesting be it Ajite, Veera (Rahul Singh) or Shabri (Tannishtha Chatterjee) and that helps to an extent. Also, few scenes were very well executed. The climax finally provides the audiences with some ‘nail biting’ moments. But the whole relevance of ‘Jalpari’ doesn’t come out well.

Parvin Dabas as always plays his part well. Lehar Khan was too good as the tomboy and does very nice for the lead role. Krishang Trivedi provides able support. Tannishtha Chatterjee is damn cute. Rahul Singh was adorable as the kind-hearted pehelwan. Suhasini Mulay and others were fine too. However, the best actor of the lot has to be Harsh Mayar. He was outstanding in I Am Kalam and does even better here in Jalpari. It was a treat to see him as a ‘bhai’, roaming around with his gang and trying to terrorize Shreya and Sam. In fact, the film became bearable because of him! Hats off!

Music is alright and besides the folk song, none of the tracks were memorable. Background score is minimal and used well. Savita Singh’s cinematography captures the beauty and eeriness of the village beautifully. Deepak Venkateshan’s story had the trappings of a hard-hitting film. The issue of female foeticide is profound and had got mention recently thanks to Satyamev Jayate. Moreover, skewed sex ratio, men ‘importing’ wife from other states for marriage and other such rural issues were well woven into the plot. But screenplay fails to do justice. Moreover, Nila Madhab Panda’s direction does remind one of his first film, I Am Kalam, but that spark is missing. Also the final ‘Jalpari’ scene was embarrassing and could have been better executed. It’s indeed praiseworthy that Panda took up such an issue for a film. If only he had taken care of the glitches, Jalpari would have been in a different league!

On the whole, Jalpari is an average product. Its theatrical business will be very poor and might find audience in the DVD market or during its satellite release.