Mehul Kumar returns to the silver screen with his next offering, Jaago. After addressing many social problems in both Krantiveer and Tirangaa, Jaago is yet another film that tries to tackle one of the most disturbing tragedies of social behavior, child rape. This film is inspired by a true-life incident of a 9- year-old girl who was sexually abused on a local Mumbai train.
Life couldn’t be better for Shrikant (Sanjay Kapoor) and Shraddha (Raveena Tandon), as they have a beautiful 10-year-old daughter, Shruti, (Hansika Mortwani) who brings all the joy they could ever ask for into their lives.
As many kids in this age do, Shruti travels from Borivali to Bandra daily by local train to attend school. One day, she accidentally gets locked in her school and isn’t able to get out until late. By the time she catches a train to take her back home it is already midnight…and so the nightmare begins…
As the darkness of fate may have it, three young drug addicts also board the train. Upon seeing her all alone; they rape the angelic yet helpless child. This shameless act was committed in front of three passengers who were all too scared to interfere.
Shruti is brought into the hospital in a state of unconsciousness. With her grieving parents beside her, she breathes a final breath of air. This happening causes an uproar in the city and shocks everyone to say the least.
The case is passed over to Kripa Shankar Thakur (Manoj Bajpai). Thankfully, he’s a honest and sincere cop from the Crime Branch and helps to give both parents justice. From here on out begins an uphill climb, a struggle between the honest and the corrupt. Thakur, without crossing any illegal boundaries, righteously arrests all three convicts. In doing so, he rips apart the truth about the society and its legal system. Finally, the respectable judge declares a judgment that makes history…
Jaago, without a doubt, succeeds in getting its message across; the hard-hitting theme is conveyed with utter realism and is a good attempt at creating awareness among the public. Mehul Kumar directs the toughest scenes of the film, the rape scene, with great skill as you’re left spell-bounded in disbelief and your heart skips a beat as the predators force themselves upon the helpless child.
In addition to good direction, the ending of the film will be cherished and loved by practically all audiences. One unique feature to this film is that instead of dragging on towards the end of the film (as most films tend to do), Jaago tends to gain momentum as the film progresses, terminating on a superb climax. There really couldn’t have been a more suitable ending.
Although the film does have its plus points, it also has its share of minuses…
Easily the biggest fall back to the film is its screenplay. The idea of putting Raveena in in-sufficient clothing to attract the molesters is quite clichéd, and then to have Bajpai miss the train is unnecessary. Another aspect of the screenplay that deserves criticism is the number of times that the court hearings were muted out, as if they are telling a secret! Obviously the reason was to save the time of writing fully-elaborated debates between the prosecution and the defense. This setback, although hampering, can be gone unnoticed due to the powerful climactic ending.
To add to the minuses, the cinematography of the film is definitely under-par. Also, from the opening credits it can be noticed that this film has been in production for quite some time. Not taking anything away from the theme of the film, the nostalgic feeling to the film isn’t really able to aid the film in its modern hard-hitting theme of child rape.
Not wanting to end this review on a negative note, the pluses definitely do out-weigh the minuses. Another great asset that this film carries is its dialogues, written beautifully by K.K. Singh. The dialogues are ingenious yet simple, nothing to hard to comprehend. Mehul Kumar succeeds in making such a touchy issue appeal to almost all the classes, excluding maybe the orthodox families. Without a doubt, K.K. Singh’s dialogues are the backbone of the film, without which the films would have fallen flat on its face. The one scene that will grasp at your heart is Manoj Bajpai’s outburst to the court right before the judge declares the verdict. The scene was received with ovations in many cinemas, and deservingly so!
Now to the performances…Sanjay Kapoor seemed quite uninterested throughout the film, delivering lines as if there was a gun to his head at times. Definitely not one of his best performances. His co-star, Raveena did a much better job. Although nothing to rave about, she was able to nicely convey the motherly emotions that is characteristic of all mothers, especially of one who has just lost her daughter to sexual abuse. The definite highlight of the film would have to be that of Manoj Bajpai. In both, Krantiveer and Tirangaa, Mehul Kumar was able to lift Nana Patekar above all others. This time, he takes hold of Manoj Bajpai, and is able to bring out the best in him. His scenes with the "bad guys" are strong, threatening, and powerful; his scenes with the parents, Raveena and Sanjay, are sentimental and histrionic; and his scene in front of the judge is heart-warming, enthusiastic, and emotional. The actor is easily most suited for such author-backed and avant-garde roles, either it be in Pinjar, LoC, or Jaago.
On the whole, Mehul Kumar makes a good attempt at introducing another hard-hitting theme to the Indian Film Industry. The issue of child abuse is not a new one in Indian Cinema. It has been shown to the audiences twice, in Mira Nair’s Monsoon Wedding and in Mahesh Manjrekar’s Pitaah. The reason I use the word "introducing" is because this is the first decent attempt in addressing the concern. Jaago has everything working towards it except the fact that the Indian public isn’t very sincere when it comes to such reality films; and the BO has proved that once again with this film. Without a doubt, Jaago is worth a dekho. For Mehul Kumar, Jaago is more than just a film…it’s a reality, a truth, an Awakening…