No One Killed Jessica



Pic source: UTV Spotboy

Power… this one thing that is more abused in our country than it is used for what it’s meant for. From politicians to traffic cops to telephone linemen to the relatives of a bureaucrat; everybody is somebody in our country. The film, No One Killed Jessica opens with the same thought, albeit about the city of Delhi. Delhi, where no one killed Jessica Lall and no one killed Aarushi Talwar. Is it the city or is it the people or is it the system? Director, Raj Kumar Gupta’s second film after the very well made Aamir (2008) tries to ask the same question. No One Killed Jessica is a great attempt at making a hard hitting and brave film based on a real life incident that shook the nation’s conscience. I say a great attempt as the film makes a point but beyond the emotion, it falls short of achieving cinematic excellence.

The film opens with a spectacular credits sequence with the sensational ‘Dilli Dilli…’ track that sets the tone of the film. In fact, the music by Amit Trivedi with Amitabh Bhattacharya’s lyrics is the film’s one of the biggest strengths. Talking about strengths, the film’s leading ladies, Vidya Balan and Rani Mukerji shine as Sabrina Lall and Meera Gaity, a journalist with striking similarities to NDTV’s Barkha Dutt, respectively. The first half of the film belongs to Vidya who sensitively portrays a girl in her twenties who is vulnerable and at the same time determined to get justice for her sister’s murder. Rani makes a powerful comeback with a fiery character and once again shows what a powerhouse of talent she is. I only wish that she was made to scream a little less.  Rajesh Sharma as the chief investigative officer on the Jessica Lall murder case also deserves a special mention; he is believable as a frustrated cop.

With a powerful subject, good performances and a superb soundtrack, No One Killed Jessica could have been an outstanding film. However, the film is not consistent and has its fabulous and dull moments. The film really moves you but also drags in parts; some of the court sequences actually make you cringe due to the way they are shot with extreme close-ups. The film could have been fifteen minutes shorter for a much more impactful narrative (screenplay – Raj Kumar Gupta; editing – Aarti Bajaj). Having said that, hats off to the director and the producers, UTV Spotboy for making a relevant film like this. It is the right time for Hindi cinema to experiment and present real or realistic stories on screen; no matter if it doesn’t have a hero, people will come to watch as I saw today in a packed theatre. I recommend watching No One Killed Jessica once for the subject matter and the great performances by the cast.

My rating: * * * Three stars on five

A note for fellow film lovers: If you are tired of film awards that are not merit based, it is time to take the decision in your hands. Presenting the Tweeple Film Awards! Truly democratic awards that are ‘Of the People’, ‘By the People’ and ‘For the People’, to honour the most deserving in Hindi Cinema 2010. It’s a movement started by film buffs on Twitter to counter the nonsense that ‘Bollywood’ film awards are.

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Peepli Live

Good film, better promotion…

Pic: Aamir Khan Productions

Whattay debut bhaiyyaAnusha Rizvi’s first directorial venture, Peepli Live is bahut badhiya! Congratulations to producer, Aamir Khan for backing a project like this and to the promotions team for making it a big success. By attributing the film’s box-office success to promotions (read marketing and public relations), I am not taking away from its good content but just highlighting the contribution it makes to help a film. A few weeks ago, a brilliant film released called ‘Udaan’; unfortunately there were not many people in the cinema halls due to in-sufficient promotional support. Similarly, Shyam Benegal’sWell Done Abba’ also didn’t set the cash registers ringing despite being a good film. In Peepli Live’s case, everything worked out well; after doing the festival rounds, the buzz around the film was kept alive till it got a wide scale release this weekend. I hope that after Peepli Live’s success, producers and corporate houses will put their money behind good content and not only big star cast led duds.

Coming back to the film, Peepli Live is a satire on the issue of farmers’ suicide. The film effectively captures the government’s apathy towards this serious issue and media, especially broadcast media’s opportunist behaviour. The film is smartly written (Rizvi) and well performed by the actors, mostly theatre artistes and newcomers.

Peepli Live is about a poor farmer named Natha who decides to commit suicide so that his family can benefit through a government compensation scheme. Natha’s half-hearted decision gives an opportunity to our ‘exclusive’ hungry media to cover a suicide ‘live’, right before the elections. Keeping the issue in focus, Rizvi’s smart writing ensures that the film doesn’t drag like a documentary but presents the whole situation in a light manner. Sharp dialogue and compelling performances by the cast make the film hilarious and disturbing in equal parts. Omkar Das Manikpuri as Natha and Raghuvir Yadav as Budhia (Natha’s brother) are good but the real winners are the caustic women in Natha’s household, his wife Dhania (Shalini Vatsa) and the venom spewing mother, Amma (Farookh Zafar).

Music by Indian Ocean also deserves a special mention; not your typical filmy score, the music goes well with the mood of the film and is quite enjoyable. Shankar Raman’s cinematography is simple and doesn’t glamourise the real look and feel of the film. Editing (Hemanti Sarkar) could’ve been a bit tighter in the second half as the film gets a bit repetitive.

Overall, Peepli Live is a good film that entertains and at the same time questions us about our ignorance of the real issues affecting our nation. Ironically, the media coverage around the film matches the madness shown in the film itself; check out some of the stories I came across in the last few days:

  • Natha wants to meet Katrina Kaif
  • Not Katrina, Natha now wants to meet Deepika Padukone
  • Natha gets gifts for Deepika and Katrina
  • Property prices go up in Peepli
  • Aamir unable to go to Peepli due to security concerns
  • Aamir did not interfere during the making of the film; only visited the sets once, etc

My rating: * * * ½ Three and a half stars on five

– Shrey Khetarpal



Is Rann Mein Nahin Zyaada Dum Hai

Pic: Rann; Source: Wikipedia


The camera goes in a tizzy… swings left and then right, focuses on the table and then Amitabh Bachchan and then the table again. Ram Gopal Varma’s Rann can give you motion sickness, not because it is a bad film but his camera does not stay still. Jokes apart, I like his style of using the camera (Cinematography – Amit Roy), giving the film a handy cam feel, which actually goes well with the film’s subject – the broadcast media.

Rann boasts of an ensemble cast with heavyweights like Amitabh Bachchan (good, as usual) and Paresh Rawal (good again); a range of actors playing small yet significant roles including Rajat Kapoor (likes playing baddie), Mohnish Behl (his most significant role since Hum Aapke Hain Koun), Riteish Deshmukh (I thought he was the lead, but…), Rajpal Yadav (funny, his character makes the real comment on the TV news channels) and Suchitra Krishnamurthy (yes, Anna of Kabhi Haan Kabhi Na); and then there are the guest appearances (or they seemed like that) by Simone Singh (graceful as ever), Neetu Chandra (dressed in lingerie most of the times, no reason) and Gul Panag (I think she got a raw deal, such a small role). All of them are good but there is one actor who shines in the film, Kannada actor, Sudeep. He plays an ambitious media baron who does not agree with his father’s (Bachchan) ideologies and chooses the wrong path to get those viewership ratings. Sudeep’s is probably the most significant character in the film and he makes it even better with his fine performance.

Now, coming back to the film; it set out to be an exposé of the TV media that could have been explosive and hard hitting. The film starts strong as we are introduced to a number of interesting characters (written by Rohit G Banawlikar); an interesting plot begins to form, which disintegrates completely in the second half. The film questions the value and the credibility of media today, especially the TV news channels; it showcases what greed can do and all possible poster boys of greed including corrupt politicians and cold businessmen are shown. However, the film falls short of making that powerful comment that forces you to think and generate emotion. The intent is good here but once again, a weak script spoils the game.

Though there is not much scope for music, whatever is there does not impress. The music is forgettable and the lyrics are quite bad (maybe an experiment that didn’t work). 

Overall, it is an average film and I would recommend it as a one time watch, just for Sudeep.

My Rating: * * * Three stars on five

Shrey Khetarpal