JL50 review: Abhay Deol, Pankaj Kapur's Sony LIV thriller is marred by tepid script, insincere acting
It seems almost as if majority of the JL50 cast became aware of the lack of a dependable script by the end of the show.
Nestled in a serene Hamlet in Lava, North Bengal, a bunch of youngsters plays football fervently when suddenly the shadow of an overhead plane bewilders them to a halt. Not a usual course for air traffic, the route of the plane surprise the village folk, and they run behind the trailing shadow to soon witness the crash amidst the lofty Himalayas. A brief CBI intervention later, viewers are told, this plane, JL50, took off from Calcutta airport 35 years ago and went missing.
JL50, SonyLIV’s latest thriller, packs a solid punch with this intriguing premise. Abhay Deol plays Shantanu, the CBI official in charge of the mysterious case, which came under scrutiny accidentally, after another flight (AO26) was hijacked by a terrorist outfit ABA (Azad Bangla Association), demanding the release of their veteran founder, Partho Majumdar.
As Shantanu scourges through facts and figures behind the JL50 case, he can only look towards two survivors from the crash, pilot Bhiu Ghosh (Ritika Anand) and passenger Professor Mitra (Piyush Mishra). His search also leads him to the evasive Professor Das (Pankaj Kapur), the only member on the flight who had booked a ticket but never boarded it. Das promptly disassociates himself from the events, and says he is merely a scholar of Quantum Physics and opted out only because he has aerophobia.
While the pressure from the centre mounts, Shantanu, and his team are advised to hasten their investigation and procure conclusive evidence. When Bhiu regains consciousness, she insists that she belongs to 1984, and that her craft was hijacked about 10 minutes into the flight. Shantanu is wary of such absurd claims, and tries to trace the family of the “original” Bhiu Ghosh, who flew JL50 three decades ago.
Surprisingly, all forensic evidence from the crash and findings from Professor Mitra’s library point towards an occurrence that took place in 1984. Shantanu even learns that Mitra was involved in a top-secret research mission titled Project A, which tried to decode theories of time travel and spacetime warps.
This is the precise juncture where writer and director Shailender Vyas releases the proverbial reigns over his craft and the series wilts. The narrative choices seem weak and the actors’ talents completely wasted. In an otherwise fast-paced whodunit, Deol’s frazzled scowls are insufficient to breathe life into Shantanu’s desperate need for justice. Kapur’s thickened Bengali accent is so contrived that he is sure to make audiences wince every time he slips into the vernacular bits.
Mishra, who also steps in as a producer in the series, does little but huff and puff in garbled breaths as he tries to portray the overdone role of the eccentric scientist. Frankly, the veteran ought to have disconnected himself from his (overt) storyteller act from Imtiaz Ali's 2015 film Tamasha.
The SonyLIV series is a perfect example of a project that had all the right elements on paper but failed to reflect it on screen. The tepid action sequences also dull the edginess that generally functions as a catalyst for such narratives. Chase sequences are wrought with clumsy moves and awkward push-and-pulls, bordering on the hilarious at times.
Worthy of note (not for the right reasons of course) is a confrontation scene between Shantanu and Professor Das, where both seem so uncomfortable in the skins of their characters, that it almost evokes pity.
JL50, much like the aircraft, fails to soar high and crashes with an abrupt climax.
Characters reach their purported goals and the world is set right happily ever after. It seems almost as if majority of the cast became aware of the lack of a dependable script by the end of it. What else can justify Deol’s monotone, blank smiles, and (almost) robotic dialogue delivery?
JL50 is streaming on SonyLIV.
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