Even before the film No One Killed Jessica released, I had huge expectations from the movie. Rani looked smashing and the promos were hot! I was dying to watch the movie even though I had heard mixed reviews since its release. So tonight I went to watch the film. The film begins with a bang, with a voice-over from Rani and the song "Dilli Dilli...". As expected the audience sit tight with unfurled enthusiasm waiting for something to happen. The camera moves over to a scene where Vidya Balan is introduced and soon we see the ill famed night of the party when Jessica Lall was killed.
Myra Karn puts up a very believable Jessica; her charm, light heartedness and chirpiness makes Jessica come alive on the screen and the audience feels an extended empathy towards the victim. Dialogues are hard hitting. Vidya's dialogues, "Kya kisiki janki kimat itni kam hain humari country mein?" and "Is the life of a person cheaper than a glass of wine?" make viewers sit up and think. But then something happens to Raj Kumar Gupta.
The intensity with which the movie began is lost somewhere. Surely the director had to keep pace with the patient determination of Sabrina Lall, but can this account for an extremely slow 1st half? Throughout the first half, we see Vidya coaxing and trying to encourage the witnesses to speak the truth but nothing really comes out of it. I think the first half could have been shorter if not speedier.
Now comes the 2nd half. This is where Rani enters. When you find fast paced scenes throughout the promos with Rani everywhere, you have an expectation that she will be arriving very soon in the movie. However it is only in the second half that Rani comes in. Most of her scenes which have been shown in the promo are present in this half. The movie begins to pick up pace. But there is a certain amount of detachment. We never see the witnesses actually being threatened; we hear from different sources. The directness of the action is therefore made blunt.
It could have been a better movie; a much better one; a more sensational one. Of course Rani does what she has come to do, she catches the "witnesses gone bad" and turns the tables around. She makes the higher heads turn back to the case. She generates a country wide protest. But all of this appears very cosmetic. The intensity of the promos is lost in the film. A movie like this also deserved a better ending. But the one who stands in the midst of all this is Sabrina Lall, played by Vidya Balan.
Right from the beginning, Vidya shocks you. You are taken in by her integrity, quiet determination and absolute shunning of a glamorous lifestyle. With the same patience she visits each of the witnesses and encourages them to speak the truth. She even helps out a witness monetarily, not as a bribe but as a means of helping out the "poor fellow" even though she is short of money.
The shots where she sits alone in a chair gazing vacantly into space when the trial does not proceed according to her hopes are excellent. One finds her very focussed in the beginning of the film, determined that she would punish her sister's murderer. However this determination slowly fades away when the murderer gets away scot-free. Since then one finds her wandering across the populated streets of New Delhi with the same vacant expression on her face.
She nearly collides with an elephant and that incident brings her back to her senses. Never have I seen more understated acting! Absolutely brilliant and sexy. What subtlety, What charm! Her mother passes away, her father is taken ill. Sabrina loses hope until Mira (Rani Mukherjee) confronts her at her home. Throughout this time, Vidya's acting is wonderful. Even if you have gone to the movie hall to see Rani (like me), you cannot help but notice the heights to which this Tamil actor has raised acting.
All in all, No One Killed Jessica is a one time watchable. It however is a MUST one-time watch. The characters are highly developed. Mira, Sabrina and Jessica shine individually with their own character merits. Even though Myra Karn does not have much of screen time, she fully utilizes what little is given to her. I wish Rani had been given more of screen time but ah well, Rani does a bombastic job of whatever screen time she has. The plot of the movie could have been probably better especially when Raj Kumar Gupta was working with one of the most high profile cases of modern India. He definitely could have done a better job; since he had great content.
A discussion of the movie would be incomplete without a mention of Amit Trivedi's music. I could go on and on about his sensational numbers. "Dilli..Dilli.." especially hits the right note and it is a pity that the director could not keep up the pace of the movie with that of this number. But even after all things have been said, I strongly recommend everyone to watch the movie.
While lots can be said about what the director could have done, it would be unfair not to mention what he has done: shown the courage and grit to work with a content like the Jessica Lall Murder Case, even though he knew that his work would spark criticism. Fictionalizing a real life incident is always a bit of work, since you always have a lot of critics who are going to compare the fiction with the real incident. Gupta has done the best he could. If you are searching for the hard hitting documentary style action that Aamir had, you will be disappointed. However the movie sticks to a much more concentrated style of events and action than the recent Hindi movies have shown.
My bet: Go watch this movie. If not for the raciness then definitely for a one-of-a-kind film based on a social cause.
P.S: The Jessica Lall Murder case was one of the most high profile cases of modern India that went over for more than 10 years. The prime accused, Manu Sharma was finally sentenced to life imprisonment on 19 April, 2010. Films like this one make you come face to face with reality. I remember I was so in despair during the initial trial that I stopped watching news. However there is no denying the fact that the Jessica Lall murder case got a lot of media attention which the less unfortunate cases like those of Satyendra Dubey have not got. Remember him?
The thirty year old bright engineer who had to pay with his life for exposing corruption in the prestigious Golden Quadrilateral Project by the NHAI in 2003. He had sent a letter to the PM's Office discussing the nature of corruption in the project in Gaya, Bihar and had at the same time requested secrecy and protection. The highly efficient PM Office managed to leak this letter to the Bihar Mafia and the honest government engineer had to pay with his life. The case was disposed of by the Patna Court on 22 March 2010 by stating that Dubey was a victim to a simple burglary. The prime accused escaped and the major witnesses died or disappeared under mysterious circumstances. Will we ever find out Who Killed Satyendra Dubey?