Movie Review: Jai Ho

January 24, 2014

(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters)

Five minutes into Sohail Khan’s “Jai Ho“, lead actor Salman Khan beats up scoundrels, saves a damsel in distress and breaks into a dance number (along with thousands of background dancers wearing orange sunglasses), singing about what is wrong with India.

Khan sings about farmers dying, women being unsafe and politicians looting the common man. The irony of this spectacle is that it’s been shot in Lavasa, a township in Maharashtra mired in controversy over illegal land acquisitions and regulatory clearances.

That is the kind of dichotomy that “Jai Ho” is pretty nonchalant about. Khan’s character claims to stand for women’s rights, but thinks nothing of commenting on a woman’s underwear. He rages against politicians for blocking traffic and inconveniencing the public, but rides his motorbike onto a crowded railway station platform.

If you accept that there won’t be a semblance of sense in the screenplay, and that the two-and-half hour film is essentially a showreel for Khan to show off his sculpted body, action moves and dance steps, then perhaps you can enjoy the madness that is “Jai Ho”.

Director Sohail Khan gives us his own take on vigilante justice, in which politicians and police are corrupt, and it is up to Jai Agnihotri (Salman Khan), an upright ex-army officer with a Hannibal Lecter complex (he bites the bad men in the neck) to make things right.

This remake of the Telugu film “Stalin” (2006) also borrows heavily from the 2000 Hollywood drama “Pay It Forward“, with Khan’s character propagating the idea that everyone he helps should help three other people, thereby ensuring that good deeds multiply. Most of the film’s plot points require much suspension of belief, including a minister trying to kill his boss, a student who kills herself because she cannot write an exam, babies being kidnapped, and whatnot — depicted in the weirdest way.

Writing a plot for this film is an exercise in futility. It is a series of incidents with no connection, strung together so we can witness Salman Khan in his glory, doing what apparently only he can do — pull off inane screenplays with a smirk.

At the end of a rather graphic fight sequence, when Khan is rescued by an auto rickshaw driver as well as an army tanker, which just drives up the road and stops the villains in their tracks, you can either applaud how well this absurdity works, or throw up your hands in despair.

When the film is not showcasing Khan, it helps reunite failed actors from the India film industry. Ashmit Patel, Sharad Kapoor, Mukul Dev, Vatsal Sheth, and others seem to have crawled out of the woodwork to join the cast.

Actress Tabu stands out like a sore thumb in this ensemble cast, and is clearly trying to have fun and forget that she built a career playing roles with more depth. Newcomer Daisy Shah is adequate for what is her first outing, and hovers in the background while the film’s real and only hero goes about his business.

And that is what it comes down to. “Jai Ho” doesn’t really solve any problems — its makers just want to channel the public’s anger to make commercial gains. Watch this film only if you are fine with this attitude.

(Follow Shilpa on Twitter at @shilpajay. This article is website-exclusive and cannot be reproduced without permission)

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