Raveena Tandon, Manoj Bajpai, Sanjay Kapoor.
By Subhash K. Jha, IANS
The saving grace of director Mehul Kumar's film "Jaago" on the rape of a child is that he knows where to stop before being accused of trying to win salacious points.
"Jaago" purports to be a wake-up call for a somnolent desensitised nation of people who believe crime has nothing to do with them.... even if it comes knocking on their doors.
Hence when little Shruti (Hansika Motwani) is brutalised by three men on a local train in Mumbai, a woman, her daughter and an old man are mute spectators.
Mehul Kumar has earlier issued reel-wrapped wake-up calls for our collective social conscience in "Tirangaa" and "Krantiveer", where Nana Patekar sermonised the castrated masses so hard they had to be startled into an awakened state.
Since "Jaago" deals with the most sensitive social crime in the book of atrocities, one expected Mehul Kumar's tone of narration to be less screechy.
"Jaago" is as violent and aggressive in tone as Kumar's earlier films.
Dialogue writer K.K Singh gets plenty of opportunities for rhetorical gymnastics in the courtroom. Even when the characters aren't in a session they talk as they though they are in an invisible courtroom.
The dialogues are the maim-stay of this jarringly jingoistic journey into crime. Then there's the background score. Last week in "Maqbool", Vishal Bhardawaj showed us how an effective background score can reveal the torn and tortured world of the characters.
In "Jaago", Sameer Sen's background score is like an invitation to a rock video. The notes don't fall, they hurl down on the verbose soundtrack.
The score includes the sounds of crowing crows each time a corrupt lawyer saunters in and the carefully copyrighted and patented "Happy Birthday To You" tune.
It's fortunate that there are no songs in the narrative.
Between Sen's over-the-top (and how!) backgrounder and the loud K.K Singh-sound, there isn't room for a breath of fresh air, let alone a song.
The absence of songs by themselves cannot be counted as a virtuous leap-forward for a filmmaker. For all practical purposes, Mehul Kumar continues to play the role of the clamorous crusader.
Apart from a sequence with one of the rapists' mother where she derides her son for his ghastly crime, and a sardonic chief minister's venomous ironical diatribe against the crime when one of the rapists' bureaucrat father tries to pull powerful strings to save his son, there isn't one laudably subtle and thought provoking moment of social comment.
Where Mehul Kumar needed an ampoule he opts for a barrel. Loud and belligerent in tone, "Jaago" fails to get across the enormity of the crime against child with even a reasonable amount of conviction.
We should've been one with the bereaved parents, Raveena Tandon and Sanjay Kapoor's, unspeakable grief at the rape and death of their child.
The minute Raveena gets into seductive clothes to trap her daughter's rapists in the same railway compartment (with the same witnesses looking on!) the narrative plunges with Raveena's neckline, never to rise above the level of a street play on crime against women.
Severely handicapped by a script that projects ham handed situations through characters who simulate seriousness rather than absorb and feel the immensity of the subject, "Jaago" is worth watching only for Manoj Bajpai's restrained take on a cop's repulsed rejection of departmental inertia and corruption.
It's interesting to see how different this cop is from the one Bajpai played in "Shool". The outraged indignation of the earlier crime buster is now frozen into a steely determination to rid society of scum before it's too late.
The character's idealism, though affective, gets submerged in tons of outrageous scenes and dialogues. When a corrupt cop whisks away the eyewitnesses to the crime, our cop-hero kidnaps his colleague's wife and child!
Then there's the alarming and unbecoming differentiation between the bad criminal and good criminal.
Puru Raj Kumar makes a belated appearance as jailed gangster who approves of the rapists being punished by extra-constitutional methods. As if anyone's asking!
One of the offenders is murdered by the raped girl's mother, another by the father and the third is hanged by the cop-hero while the parents and other members of the fury watch with smug satisfaction.
Rape finally finds its level. Now we can sleep peacefully.