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Review: Aishwarya's Jazbaa has little to cheer about

A mostly watchable thriller, Jazbaa is marred by its director Sanjay Gupta’s penchant for excesses, feels Sukanya Verma.

Aishwarya Rai Bachchan is a grim woman on a mission. She’s back on screen portraying the pains of motherhood after a five-year hiatus to enjoy its pleasures, off it. 

In Sanjay Gupta’s remake of 2007 South Korean flick, Seven Days, the star (credited as one of Jazbaa’s many producers) plays the devil’s advocate to rescue her kidnapped daughter from unidentified blackmailers. 

Aiding her is scruffy school pal and suspended cop Irrfan Khan as they go about town in their gleaming transport and all-black wardrobe gathering evidence that’ll prove her client not guilty -- not something any character inhabiting this story can boast of.

Like Aishwarya’s legal eagle defends evil because only they can afford her hefty fee and allow her the luxury of round-cut solitaires and Gucci totes.  

If only the courtroom scenes weren’t so embarrassingly executed.

All she has to do is do her best ‘pretty please’ face to ‘Your Honour’ and the man’s putty; while the not-so-privileged opposition’s (Atul Kulkarni) objections fall on deaf ears. 

At one point, she proudly beams, 'the police is on my side' like some proud classroom monitor whose back just got patted by the schoolteacher. 

I wasn’t impressed by the original, which I found alternately dull and jumbled-up in its objective and treatment. Jazbaa doesn’t retain the gore but is just as sketchy and cardboard in its characterizations.   

Except a superficial attempt to root its crime around the growing percentage of rape in the country and the anger it elicits, it’s near identical to Seven Day’s screenplay. Also, South Koreans don’t spew weary life philosophy like Irrfan Khan and Shabana Azmi (playing the deceased’s mother) are made to in Jazbaa. 

Luckily, these two are master artists and can say a lot many lousy lines without making us cringe. Although I found Azmi a tad distracted, Khan is potent even when lurking in the background doing nothing of particular consequence.   

Aishwarya is not as exaggerated as she is carried away at the prospect of conveying a mother’s anguish. This is a role she understands if not entirely identifies with. Under a better director, her enthusiasm wouldn’t get the better of her and those blood-shot eyes and shrieking frustration would find a better expression.   

A mostly watchable thriller marred by its director Sanjay Gupta’s penchant for excesses -- a greenish yellow filter that renders the frames more sickly than stylish unless it’s some sort of bizarre metaphor for Ash’s light eyes brimming in agony, a pounding background score that’s so commonplace it serves little purpose and terribly reckless use of slow-motion. 

Technology’s purpose is to enhance the language of cinema not overwhelm or mock its character’s emotions like Gupta does. He used to be better at this, whiz kid they called him, but now he’s just a kid who’s bought all the add-on packs of a cool video app and is in a crazy rush to try out everything at once. 

Rediff Rating: