With Jolly LLB 2, Akshay Kumar finally gets his social crusader image right
Every year, Akshay Kumar does at least one film where he plays the messiah, usually with nationalist undertones (or overtones, depending on which film you talk about). Add to that his recent ads for Kajaria Tiles and Hero Motors (both of which have a strong message of patriotism in them) and his videos on social media where he voices his opinion. You realise that Akshay Kumar has been gradually catching on to the current pulse of the nation.
And now, with Jolly LLB 2, we finally have Akshay Kumar managing to succeed more than ever before, in giving us cinema with heft, while sticking to firm ground with regard to his image.
In recent times, Akshay Kumar has often portrayed himself as a saviour, a social crusader who’ll save the country (his trademark bumbling humour and terrific action in tow). Indeed, there’s a social media fan following out there that projects him as a patriotic Hindu superstar, as opposed to the you-know-whos of the industry.
His popularity ensures decent box office returns, but Akshay Kumar’s films have often floundered because they’ve either overdone the patriotic fervour or have simply milked it because it was convenient. So, if Holiday and Gabbar Is Back were guilty of building up the heroism too much in inane plots, Rustom had patriotism force-fit into a story that had nothing to do with it.
In films like Baby and Airlift, Akshay Kumar’s characters could do no wrong, despite being faced with the toughest of challenges. They may have been entertaining in parts, but they had little to take away from them because they were just too utopian, too unreal, in terms of the way the ‘hero’ saves the day.
This is where Jolly LLB 2 stands apart in his recent filmography. (Caution: Minor spoilers ahead.)
The eponymous character in the film first bears moral responsibility for a truly tragic death – enough for it to be considered brave on Akshay’s part to agree to it — before he sets himself on the path for redemption. And even then, Jolly is scarcely the hero, but more a catalyst in saving the day.
One of the biggest fears with Akshay Kumar replacing Arshad Warsi as Jolly was that the film would cease to be about characters and become more about the superstar. Yet, in a surprising move, Akshay Kumar is very much just one character among a number of strong ones. Saurabh Shukla and Annu Kapoor frequently overshadow the star, which helps the cause of the film immensely.
Additionally, Jolly LLB 2 has a brief religion-and-terror angle to it, which is treated in the sanest, most mature manner. No browbeating, chest-thumping or stereotyping while the case unravels, thank you very much.
Subhash Kapoor has displayed a flair for deep social insight using comedy, and he uses it to the full with this film. And credit must go to Akshay Kumar for trusting this vision, because Jolly LLB 2 is the most real film he has done so far.
The promo of the film gave the impression that there would be at least some action to cater to Akshay’s fan following, but there actually isn’t. This film is one for the masses, where ‘masses’ refers to every single one of us (and not the hideous ideological opposite to the ‘classes’). In fact, save for Dangal, Jolly LLB 2 probably offers more to the Indian viewer than any film by India’s biggest superstars in recent times.
What’s also heartening is the fact that Jolly LLB 2 gives us hope that in some of his upcoming films – Toilet: Ek Prem Katha and Pad Man – we may see him make even braver choices.
Because let’s face it, he currently seems to be the only Indian superstar who’s using his status to influence social behaviour in some way. With his smart film choices, Akshay Kumar is beginning to convince us that the biggest strength of any social crusade is hope.