Director Raj Kumar Gupta is back with his second film, 'No One Killed Jessica', a couple of years after his much acclaimed debut 'Aamir'. The film is a fictionalised account of the Jessica Lall case which made waves years ago. The incident actually took place more than 11 years ago, but such being the state of affairs in India, it took more than five years for the court to declare its verdict, one which soon had the entire country calling for justice to be done, ultimately leading to the historic turn of events which this movie is based on.
The film is actually quite topical in a certain sense as it exposes the vicious nexus between the guardians of the law and politicians in our country. Nothing new in that, of course, as it's a fact which even a five year old is aware of. But the last few months of the year gone by has been inundated by exposes and scams, one in which certain venerable members of the fourth estate too were implicated.
The Jessica Lall case was a landmark of sorts because, for once, the media actually played a big role in marshalling public opinion which ultimately led to the case being reopened and the accused being sentenced. Of course, this is a film, hence many of the events have been dramatised. But, in totality, the director does an extremely fine job of recreating the event and bringing home the helplessness and anger of Jessica's parents and sister; the corruption in our systems; the hand in glove relationship between cops and politicians, and finally, the gutsy fight put up by two women to ensure justice is done.
Finally, the film is also about savouring the joy of justice, something which is so rare in our country. Having access to so much information, Gupta manages to structure his movie excellently and even though the content is very apt for a documentary, the movie actually moves like a thriller and keeps the audiences hooked.
Everybody knows that Jessica was killed only because of she refused some rich kid a drink. And we all know that she paid for it with her life as the guy gunned her down. In the first half of the movie, Gupta goes over the events, the actual incident and the devastated family. All of the events are filtered through the consciousness of a hot shot TV journalist, Meera Gaity (Rani Mukerji), belonging to one of the biggest news channels in India.
Gupta manages to place the actual event wonderfully in context, in December 1999, when the Kargil War was just about winding down and the hijack of an India Airlines flight by the Lashkar was making news. Seen through the eyes of a journo, the Jessica Lall case didn't seem newsworthy enough, then.
But years pass and finally the court returns a verdict of not guilty. By this time, Jessica (Myra)'s sister Sabrina, played by Vidya Balan, has given up on the case, as she has been weighed down by not just the death of her sister, but also her mother. Ironically, the not guilty verdict sends shock waves all around and people start rallying around the cause of justice, all due to some very smart investigative work by our hotshot journo. The truth plays out on prime time television and the eyewitnesses who had turned hostile are exposed and the judiciary orders that the case be reopened. What follows is, of course history.
The first half of the film is fast paced and very engrossing as Gupta recreates the events and the main protagonists in the story. While the first half is more about Sabrina and her fight for justice, we see bits and pieces of Meera. But towards the latter half of the first half, and in the second, Rani as Meera, takes over the movie with her explosive performance. However, one would have liked to see Sabrina and Meera's interacting a little more than the two and half scenes that they share during the entire duration of the movie.
But structurally, one really has no complaints with Gupta. The film has been well scripted and the dialogues are refreshingly natural, full of the usual four letter words which have now become an essential part of most people's vocabulary. The character of Rani is a little filmy, but one cannot deny that the actress brings a certain feisty quality to the role and really livens up things with her powerful performance.
She serves as a perfect counterfoil to the stoic Sabrina, played by Vidya, who manages to impart a certain intensity to even her silences. Her dialogues are far and few in between, but she says it all with her body language and silences. It's definitely a very different kind of performance by the actress and shows a lot of courage on her part to do play such a deglamourised character. So even though Rani is the scene stealer in 'No One Killed Jessica', Vidya matches up well with her poignant performance.
The other actors pitch in heroically with well nuanced performances. The first one which comes to mind is Rajesh Sharma as the investigating officer. Neil Bhoopalam as Dilip, the key witness, who was also a friend of Jessica, is quite fantastic. It is easy to paint him as a villain, but while Gupta's movie does not absolve him, it shows the other side of the picture as well. Mohammed Zeeshan Ayub as Manish, accused and Shireesh Sharma as his politician father are quite good as well, while Satyadeep Mishra acquits himself well as Meera's boss.
One would not expect great music in a film like 'No One Killed Jessica', but one couldn't be more wrong. Amit Trivedi and Amitabh Bhattacharya join hands once again to deliver a terrific soundtrack, especially the 'Dilli Dilli' number. The snatches of the other songs which appear, are also quite impactful and the duo does a wonderful job. Anay Goswami's cinematography is great and the screenplay and dialogues have been excellently penned by Gupta. They are realistic and will definitely stroke a chord with audiences.
Gupta has managed to stick to facts and yet add the right amount of fictional elements to make a film which is engrossing and extremely engaging as the main protagonists go through a sea of emotions in their journey towards justice and truth. Gupta is to be lauded for his heroic and courageous attempt. 'No One Killed Jessica' needs to be seen. We, the people of democratic India, need to recognise that together, we can script history, just like we did in the Jessica Lall case.