Expectations were riding high for Subhash Kapoor’s Jolly LLB after his acclaimed Phas Gaye Re Obama. And with Arshad Warsi and Boman Irani in the lead roles, these expectations sky-rocketed. Although the film lingers around the same genre of satire, Jolly LLB is social commentary for the masses. And like most things that are for the masses, it too compromises on quality.
The film opens in Meerut, where an ambitious lawyer, Jolly, whose colleague is a lawyer-astrologer-president, enters a courtroom with laddoos to bribe a judge, who is texting ‘love you too jaanu’ whilst sitting in the high chair. However, Jolly wants to make it big in the legal circle and moves to Delhi. And in this new setting, the film loses interest in subtle black humour and becomes an average drama. In a sudden change of heart, Jolly files a Public Interest Litigation in a hit-and-run case against a rich boy, who is being defended by the evil and successful lawyer Rajpal. Thus begins a saga of predictability, where each party shows their hand, one at a time. But you already know what cards they are holding.
The stale dramatic elements bound by dialogues that sound believable only when Saurabh Shukla’s character repeats them mockingly, lead you to be disinterested in this average courtroom drama. Boman Irani, who sportingly steps into the shoes of the villain, is seen saying things like “bloody honest Indian” and “woh toh do kaudi ka wakeel hai”. Saurabh Shukla, who is the judge presiding over the case, grows from being a flatulent self-serving man to a figure that you see as the epitome of justice. And however superficial the flow, you cannot help but pick him as the real hero of the film. Also, although it was great to see Arshad Warsi in a lead role, you cannot surpass the feeling that he lacks the screen presence to hold a film by himself. As for Amrita Rao, it is better to say nothing.
Some scenes in the film are a reminder of the rudimentary satirical treatment that must have been on the mind of the maker. Advocates unable to spell affidavit and careless police officers nabbing the wrong man without cross-checking who has been summoned, are isolated moments that bring a smile to your face. But on the whole, the film gets too preachy by the time it ends. It mixes what could have been great satire, by showing what the moral high ground is; thus defeating the fundamental purpose of satire.
Overall, Kapoor’s film is a decent watch and leaves you believing in the concept of justice. However, having witnessed the reality more closely in recent months, it is hard not to be a little cynical. Jolly LLB could have been a lot more but it isn’t. It makes for a good weekend watch and an ill-informed 15 minute debate over justice.
Rating: 2.5 out of 5
Published in DNA After Hrs (Pune) on March 16, 2013