Bollywood and culture in an emerging India
Jolly LLB: Little justice in this legal tale
Subhash Kapoor’s “Jolly LLB”, about a small-town lawyer who dreams of fame and wealth but develops a conscience along the way, is the film version of the saying “Don’t judge a book by its cover.”
From the cover (or in this case, the trailer), “Jolly LLB” seemed like a smart, snappy film about the David who takes on Goliath and comes away a hero. The musty, crowded corridors of the lower courts and the machinations that take place there are characteristic of the Indian judicial system and all its pitfalls are an ideal backdrop to this battle.
Arshad Warsi is our protagonist, Jagdish Tyagi aka Jolly, the David in this story — a lawyer from Meerut who dreams of making it to the top but has seemingly no talent to actually get him there. Instead of improving his skills, he decides all will be well if he moves to New Delhi, the land where all lawyers prosper.
He sees his opportunity in a hit-and-run case that has garnered media attention and is being argued by India’s most crooked and hence, most successful lawyer Tejinder Rajpal (Boman Irani). When the accused is declared not guilty, Jolly, inspired by a colleague, files a PIL to reopen the case and alleges all evidence has not been presented.
Sure enough, things begin to move. A man who claims to have witnessed the accident comes forward and offers to identify the accused — Rahul, the scion of a rich and influential family — in court. Jolly becomes popular with other lawyers and earns brownie points with his girlfriend back home.
Cue twist in tale, Jolly’s moral dilemma, long boring lecture from shrill-sounding girlfriend, a few gimmicky, sure-to-get-you-sniffing scenes and an extremely simplistic portrayal of the process of getting justice in the Indian system.
Director Kapoor’s idea is great but the execution falters. The pace is slow and is hampered by a romance between Warsi and Amrita Rao. Rather than concentrate on a battle between the two men, Kapoor chooses to make a comment on several issues and ends up diluting the core issue at hand.
The film has its high points and they come solely thanks to the genius of Saurabh Shukla, who plays the droll judge presiding over the case. Shukla is the one bright spark in an otherwise lacklustre film.
Warsi and Irani give one-note performances and the less said the better about Amrita Rao as the film’s female lead. Why she was needed in the film, I do not know.
“Jolly LLB” is at best an average film — one that could have soared but is weighed down by faulty execution.