Unlike the Rest of Madhur's Movies, Jail Lacks that Edge
By MovieTalkies.com, 06 November 2009
Madhur Bhandarkar continues with his brand of cinema in 'Jail' as well, his latest offering. Surprisingly, the film is not as hard hitting as his previous movies and instead tells a tale, which has been often heard by one and all about the human rights situation in our country and the condition of our jails. Barring a few surprises, the film actually turns out to be quite tame and ordinary. In these days the kind of exposures one gets on television channels, there is little that can surprise or take us unawares. There is nothing new that Madhur has to say in this movie, which has not been said before. This film, unlike the rest of Madhur's movies, lacks that edge. In fact, it is quite a sanitized version of life in jail.
The film follows the life of Parag Dixit (Neil Nitin Mukesh), an ambitious young executive, making his life up the corporate ladder. Just when everything seems to be going well for this young man, his life is turned upside down and he finds himself behind bars, convicted of a crime which he never committed. His room mate turns out to be a major drug dealer and the cops nab Parag and find a bag full of cocaine in his car. The drug belongs to his friend, who is gunned down by the cops and Parag pays for being in the car with him. His girlfriend (Mugdha Godse) and his mother hire a lawyer and try their best to get him released on bail, but the appeals is turned down and Parag is remanded to judicial custody.
A shell shocked, Parag finds it difficult accept his reality and adjust to life in jail. He oscillates from utter helplessness to bouts of anger and then back to helplessness again. Gradually, he starts making friends with the other convicts like Nawab (Manoj Bajpai) and Kabir (Arya Babbar) among others, who help him out in little ways. Nawab is an upright man and he can sense Parag is not a criminal and tries to steer him away from the unpleasant elements in jail like Kabir, who works for a don, who himself is leading a cushy life in jail. The Jail superintendent is aware of all that is going on inside his jail but admits that he is unable to take any action. Cops and criminals are locked in an unholy nexus, nothing new really, and many of the criminals receive favours from the cops. Life in jail is really not all that different from life outside. Parag's bail hearing is turned down by the High Court a couple of times, but he finally gets justice and is a free man.
While Madhur does show the seamy side of jail and the law which can often send a man to jail, purely on the basis of assumption, one feels that he could have done more to explore the effect this has on the individual's psyche. Matters are not helped by the fact that Neil Nitin Mukesh as Parag fails to bring out the anguish of Parag fully. For the better part of the movie, the actor wears a stunned, deadpan look on his face. He is unable to bring out the different shades of emotions that Parag must be going through. In fact, it is Manoj Bajpai as Nawab, who really impresses in the manner in which he conveys so much with just one expression or a look. He has few dialogues, but he makes the most of them and is very effective in his portrayal as Nawab, a convict himself, who acts as a guardian angel for Parag. Arya Babbar too manages to make an impact as Kabir, who tries to help Parag escape. Mugdha tries hard in the bit role that she has but it is evident that she needs to work on her dialogue delivery, which is too stiff.
The jail portions are really realistic and one knows that Madhur has shot in actual jails. The research that he may have done for this film, all comes out in the detailed portrayal of life in prison that is shown in Jail. Madhur has to be congratulated on this and also about the different types of characters that people in the jail and their individual stories. The story is well in place, he gets the lingo and look right but fails to inject that x factor into the proceedings. The film has been well shot.
In fact, one of the most outstanding sequences in the film is when Parag is first thrown into a cell. It is a longish hall and is stuffed with men of different hues, colours and shapes. It is like a sea of humanity through which Parag tries to wade through and make space for himself. Even the first sequence where he is made to undress before being packed to prison is quite telling about the inhuman face of the law.
Parag's story is horrifying and it is true that Indian jails are full of hundreds of such Parags who have been wrongly convicted and are serving their passing their time in prison till such day when the case comes up for trial. Parag was lucky as he had a mother and girlfriend who pumped in all their resources and managed to get him out in time. So yes, it is a sobering thought.
However, coming to the merits of the film, Madhur's cause is honourable, but as a film 'Jail', lacks that bite which all of his earlier films had. It is a sad but true fact, but it does not make for a dramatic enough film. One is neither shocked not horrified beyond a point. This is because one wants to sound blasé about the condition of our legal system, but this film is neither a hard hitting documentary nor a film with the raw edge of say, a Fashion or a Page 3. It is in fact quite ordinary.