Jagga Jasoos: The fantastical madness to Anurag Basu and Ranbir Kapoor's methods
The mad methods of Ranbir Kapoor and Anurag Basu are displayed in Jagga Jasoos through its chorus sequences, quirky dance routines, and make-believe world filled with animals and other creatures.
Jagga Jasoos could easily be India’s Harry Potter-meets-Tintin’s -‘hair raising’-adventures. When Jagga was a little boy, he lost his parents, spent long, lonely years in a boarding school and waited every year for his birthday when a videocassette would arrive from his mysteriously missing foster father. Like Potter, in his growing years, he wears big, round glasses, and says very little. He stammers out a few words and is the cleverest child, who solves cases that revolve around murders, a teacher called Miss Mala and giant clock towers. Like Tintin, he wears his hair in a quiff. A very brief silhouette shot of just the back of his head, with the hair up against a porthole on a ship, is the memorable image from Ravi Varman’s stunning cinematography and an instant throwback tribute to the gentlest of comic book heroes. The magic here lies with Jagga’s creator— writer and director Anurag Basu, and the actor who slips easily into the trickiest of characters—Ranbir Kapoor.
The duo worked together previously in Barfi, with Basu marvelously directing Kapoor's Chaplinesque acts. Basu had a field day, enjoying the visual brilliance he was creating (in his early days, he started out with a course in cinematography at FTII) while using Ranbir’s characterisation of a dumb and deaf boy to tell a story that relies more on images than words. Now, the two go further and take another leap of imagination, combining their talents and several genres of filmmaking. Kapoor’s character in Jagga Jasoos stammers, hence he sings to communicate. And this, of course, provides an opportunity for a musical form of story telling.
Kapoor’s choice of scripts have not followed the beaten path of commercial cinema, whether it Imtiaz Ali’s Tamasha or Anurag Kashyap’s Bombay Velvet, or Rocket Singh: Salesman of the Year, a film he did early on in his career. Both Barfi and Jagga Jasoos have showcased his talent like none other. His outstanding performance clearly reveals his complete faith in Basu. The two, together, dare to take the risk of exploring a vividly rich, cinematic landscape beyond imagination, and the result is a heady and ambitious work of passion, full of courage and conviction.
Jagga Jasoos exudes a wonderful warmth, a child-like joy. It brings back the memories of comic book heroes, and has a fresh innocence in its Broadway format of storytelling, made most endearing with Pritam's music and Amitabh Bhattacharya's lyrics. Bhattacharya and Pritam provide Basu with just the right words and notes, the humour and the mood switch, the fun and the crazy tone. If Basu’s last film Barfi depicted romantic love at its purest, Jagga Jasoos is a further extension of this endeavour, which embraces the world of children’s fantasy, spins a beautifully narrated emotional tale of a father (a brilliant Saswata Chatterjee, better known as Bob Biswas from Kahaani) and son and simply goes wild, juggling several genres at the same time. The story plays out in various beats, from musical to drama to romance to fantasy to action, and ends at a fabulous note that leaves you waiting for the next thrilling adventure, which promises a lot more insanity.
In this ‘Disney’-land, characters perform quirky dance routines choreographed by Shiamak Davar and unbelievable slapstick action scenes. We are taken through the best joyride of the year involving old-school planes, giraffes swaying, elephants trumpeting, and of course, the charming Ranbir Kapoor and Katrina Kaif frolicking through it all, atop ostriches and trains and rafts. Needless to say, it is a Disney Pictures offering.
The madness extends to passing off 34-year-old Ranbir Kapoor as a schoolboy, and his acting will convince you more than the uniform he dons. Animals of all shapes and sizes appear out of nowhere, and transport you into another make-believe world. And oh, there is a 'red circle' theory of destiny weaved in, along with a real-life incident of arms drop in Purulia in the mid-90s, leading to mysterious caves and encounters with even more mysterious two-headed villains.
As if the craziness here is still not enough, at one point, the characters burst into the unlikeliest of choruses, which is the finest moment of the film as a musical. Ridiculously simple lyrics like "Sab khana khaa ke, daaru peeke chale gaye…” tell a whimsical story of their own. Therein lies Pritam's method to the cinematic madness of Anurag Basu and Ranbir Kapoor. There is no choice but for the heart to sing along and fall in love with their movies.
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