Jalsa as a thriller poses many questions

Vidya Balan plays a TV journalist in Jalsa, a thriller that poses many questions. Photo: Amazon Prime Video

How much is revenge justified? What happens when gratitude is mixed with anger? When should we not let fear get the better of us? How much can we soothe our troubled conscience?

And last, but not the least, how can working parents take care to prevent their children’s tendency to go just that bit wayward in their absence?

All these natural but uncomfortable questions are posed by the plot and characters in Jalsa, a tale that is so simple but chilling in the way it happens one late night in Mumbai. A teenage girl (Kashish Rizwan) is out with a boy (Junaid Khan) when she is hit by a speeding car and left critically injured, as the car does not stop and the petrified boy runs away.

High-flying TV journalist Maya Menon (Vidya Balan), separated from her husband (Manav Kaul), lives with her mother (Rohini Hattangady) and cerebral palsy-afflicted son Aayush (Surya Kasibhatla). Whenever she is going to be late at work, Maya likes her maid-cum-cook of many years, Rukhsana (Shefali Shah) to stay back, as Aayush too is very fond of her. Rukhsana then makes her husband Salim (Sharad) drop their children to Maya’s home—son Imad (Shafin Patel) and daughter Alia, if he has a night shift as a spot-boy on a film set.

On that fateful day, however, Alia insists on staying home as she has to study for her exam, but she actually goes out…and she is the one hit by a car. The police want to nab the culprit even as Maya finances Alia’s treatment in a private hospital. Also investigating the case is rookie scribe Rohini (Vidhatri Bandi) who, against all odds, discovers a shocking truth.

As Rukhsana is approached by the cops, led by More (Shrikant Mohan Yadav), and is offered money so that she will no longer want action against the culprit as her daughter is now recovering, she too finds out something from them that devastates her.

Maya, meanwhile, is juggling with her work, her family (as Rukhsana is tied up in her daughter’s care), and the disturbing events in her life, including a controversial judge she interviews, Justice Gulati (Gurpal Singh). Her driver (Uday Veer Singh Yadav) also wants disproportionately big money from her for an urgent need. Things come to a head when Aayush goes missing, his phone unavailable. He has gone with Rukhsana to the beach, something Maya had promised him a while back. And Rukhsana’s phone is off too…

Despite the film getting a shade slow midway, Jalsa is a steep upward climb for director-co-writer Suresh Triveni, who had earlier made the mediocre T-Series production Tumhari Sulu with Vidya Balan as its saving grace.

Vidya too gets an upgrade in this third Abundantia film she has done since Shakuntala (2020) and Sherni (2021), both in terms of her acting as well as the script. A no-nonsense, no-frills tale that is yet not dry, the film rests broadly on Vidya’s and Shefali Shah’s bankable shoulders as both deliver terrific performances, though they hardly have many sequences face to face. This is Vidya’s best turn by leagues among these three movies, and also Tumhari Sulu.

Standing out also among the actors are Shrikant Mohan Yadav as constable More, Sharad as Shefali’s husband, Junaid Khan as Imad and, above all, Surya Kasibhatla as Aayush. The rest of the cast also does well, led by Rohini Hattangady as Vidya’s mother, Mohammed Iqbal Khan as Vidya’s caring boss and Vidhatri Bandi as Rohini.

Technically, the film is polished in scale, and the script, especially the climax, is emotionally charged despite some sharper editing needed in the second half of the 129-minute saga. A special pat is indicated also for Gaurav Chatterji’s background score.

So does the film answer the queries it poses? It does. But then, why on earth is it called Jalsa? The connection is indeed tenuous and there have been so many good films, especially in the last decade, that have been undone by wrong titles. But for this one blunder, the film is definitely recommended.

Rating: ***1/2 (Almost)

Amazon Prime Video presents Abundantia Entertainment’s & T-Series’ Jalsa Produced by: Vikram Malhotra, Bhushan Kumar, Krishan Kumar, Suresh Triveni & Shikhaa Sharma  Directed by: Suresh Triveni Written by: Prajwal Chandrashekar, Suresh Triveni, Hussain Dalal & Abbas Dalal Music: Gaurav Chatterji & Salvage Audio Collective  Starring: Vidya Balan, Shefali Shah, Mohammed Iqbal Khan, Rohini Hattangadi, Vidhatri Bandi, Gurpal Singh, Surya Kasibhatla, Manav Kaul, Sharad, Kashish Rizwan, Vijay Nikam, Shafin Patel, Ghanshyam Lalsa, Shrikant Mohan Yadav, Junaid Khan, Sharad, Uday Veer Singh Yadav, Abbas Dalal, Mangesh Desai, Sahil Brown & others






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