Movie Review: JOLLY LLB by FENIL SETA

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I am a sucker for courtroom dramas. The drama that ensues as two warring parties come together and try every trick in the book to emerge victorious makes for a spectacular watch. This is a reason why Jolly LLB was keenly awaited as after all it’s a story of a lawyer and hence will have significant portions comprising of the battle within the sacred courtroom. Although it’s quite dragging at places, Jolly LLB meets all expectations and comes up with a tale that is presented as realistically as possible but at the same time retains the humour and satire in adequate doses!

The story of the movie: After his unsuccessful stint as a lawyer in Meerut, Jagdish Tyagi aka Jolly (Arshad Warsi) shifts base to Delhi to try his luck at the capital city’s District and Sessions Court. At the same time, prominent lawyer Tejinder Rajpal (Boman Irani) successfully proves that his client, Rahul Dewan (Rajiv Siddharth) who was accused of moving down 6 labourers sleeping on footpath to death in a hit-and-run case, is innocent. After going through the media reports on the episode, Jolly realizes that Rahul is guilty and challenges the court order by filing a PIL. Jolly was more concerned about getting name and fame by fighting against the rich Dewan family and Rajpal and didn’t intend initially to fight for justice. But soon he has a change of heart and decides that come what may, he will ensure that the guilty gets the rightful punishment.

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We have seen many courtroom dramas but Jolly LLB stands out. For instance, the judge in the film is more ‘human’ and closer to reality. Judges and lawyers are shown using mobile phones and even discussing real estate projects during trial. Prominent lawyers have their own ‘gang’ within the court premises that ensure that no one tries to act smart or humiliate their ‘boss’ during court proceedings. Also, the amateur lawyers might not be aware of basic rules of fighting a case. The conversations and arguments are straight out of life and at several places, one feels that one is actually in the courtroom witnessing the entire drama. And factors like these make Jolly LLB a worthwhile watch!

Though just 130 minutes in duration, Jolly LLB is quite dragging at places unfortunately. The scenes of Jolly and Sandhya (Amrita Rao) bring a smile but the two songs in the first half don’t. The entire track of Albert Pinto (Harsh Chhaya) seemed a bit far-fetched especially when the truth came out during the intermission point but nevertheless was unpredictable. The second half is better than the first hour but again the film moves at its own pace. However, things change and get better in the climax which is truly one-of-its-kind and the best part of the film!

Arsahd Warsi is exceptional as Jolly! It was a pleasure to see Arshad playing the underdog, getting battered in and outside the court but finally standing on his feet and fighting for justice. Kudos! Boman Irani was phenomenal and natural to the core. The actor has performed roles with villainous streaks several times but no two performances of the actor are similar and that surely is the markings of a fine actor. Saurabh Shukla, as Judge Sunderlal Tripathi, is mind-blowing and easily one of the most memorable performances of Shukla’s illustrious career. Amrita Rao is immensely charming but has hardly anything to do in the film. It’s so unfortunate that such a brilliant actor is hardly seen in films and when she does bag a film, ends up essaying small and supporting roles.

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Harsh Chhaya is natural. Manoj Pahwa (as Jolly’s brother-in-law) and Mohan Kapur (Rahul’s father) are okay but Mohan Agashe (Rahul’s grandfather) leaves a mark. Others actors that make an impression are Ramesh Deo (Kaul), Sandeep Bose (inspector Rathi), Rajiv Siddharth and Mukund Bhatt (Jolly’s bodyguard; also seen as Sharman Joshi’s father in 3 Idiots). Sanjay Mishra (Guruji) is hilarious in special appearance.

Krsna’s music is alright and doesn’t have any scope, except Hans Ki Chaal. Background score is effective. Shumon Mahapatra’s art direction is convincing. Anshuman Mahaley’s cinematography is flawless. Finally, Subhash Kapoor’s story, screenplay, dialogues and direction have glitches but works on a whole and he emerges as a winner. Story is impressive (reminds of Sanjeev Nanda and Alistair Peraira case) while screenplay is topnotch. Dialogues have to be brilliant in a courtroom drama and thankfully, the war of words in the film is sharp and impactful. Direction is dragging (the grouse seen in Kapoor’s previous Phas Gaye Re Obama as well) but manages to entertain and the comment that he makes about our flawed legal system is praiseworthy. Again, many films in the past too have raised a question that how should one prove that an accused is guilty in the absence of evidence? But Jolly LLB stands out thanks to its treatment and the way things unfold in the finale.

Some of the best scenes:
1. Jolly defending a doctor in Meerut
2. Jolly essays a terrorist
3. Judge Sunderlal Tripathi’s entry (hilarious!)
4. Jolly meets Albert Pinto
5. The intermission point
6. Jolly meets Guruji
7. Jolly presents the video
8. Jolly attacked
9. The last 25-30 minutes

On the whole, Jolly LLB is a well-executed and one-of-its-kind courtroom drama that surely deserves a watch. The setting is real, dialogues sharp and performances exemplary. Sadly, the film drags at places and two songs in the first half serve no purpose. But the drama that ensues in second half and especially the climax compensates for the flaws. Definitely, worth a watch! Go for it and have a Jolly good time!

My rating-*** ½ out of 5!

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