Film review: Kapoor and Kaif entertain and no more in Jagga Jasoos

Sold as a movie for all the family, Bollywood's newest release will definitely appeal to children, and to Kapoor’s die-hard fans

Katrina Kaif and Ranbir Kapoor in Jagga Jasoos. Courtesy: UTV Motion Pictures
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Jagga Jasoos
Starring: Ranbir Kapoor, Katrina Kaif
Director: Anurag Basu
2 stars

When the first trailers of director Anurag Basu's Jagga Jasoos dropped a few months ago, a lot of noise was made about how the film has been lifted from Tintin comics. And there is some truth in it: there's an intrepid detective with a cute quiff, colourful action sequences involving swooping planes, exploding cars and hijacked trains, one-dimensional, swaggering baddies, and an international arms-smuggling plot. Except that Tintin's faithful sidekick, his dog Snowy, is swapped - disappointingly - for Katrina Kaif, who portrays a bumbling journalist snooping around the gang that's smuggling weapons into India.

Perhaps the most frustrating aspect of this beautifully-filmed adventure caper - after Kaif’s exaggerated attempts at light buffoonery - is the simplistic portrayal of the alleged attempt to overthrow the Communist government in West Bengal, and, later, to support the insurgency in India’s north-eastern states. The issues, referenced in the film through the real-life 1990s case involving an arms drop in a remote Bengal village, are used as a device to add credibility to the movie’s plot, and is buried under gorgeous cinematography and an unashamedly sentimental story about a political activist (called Tutti-Futti, no jokes there) who adopts a little boy.

Which brings us to Jagga Jasoos. The titular character, portrayed by Ranbir Kapoor, also happens to be the hero of a comic-book series, but nowhere in this 180-minute film is any explanation offered for how he became famous. So you have Kaif, furiously peddling the comic books (she obviously gives up journalism for a career in public relations) to eight-year-olds at a book fair, and trying in vain to explain to them history and politics against a backdrop of Jagga's life and adventures. (It must be said that every child in those scenes looks terribly bored, but nowhere as much as the audience watching the film).

Sold as a movie for all the family, Jagga Jasoos will definitely appeal to children, and Kapoor's die-hard fans, which guarantees it a good run at the box office. And it's about time. Kapoor desperately needs a hit after a series of middling films - Besharam (2013), Roy, Bombay Velvet, Tamasha (all 2015), and last year's Ae Dil Hai Mushkil, which drew mixed reviews.

Jagga Jasoos could really have been something, only if Basu had paid more attention to the plot. He certainly didn't lack the time, considering that the film was a good three years in the making. The delay was attributed to a rift between the leads, who were dating at the time.

In fact, the last time Kapoor and Basu worked together, it was on the critically-acclaimed Barfi (2012), a sensitive movie that showed off the actor's talent.

Kapoor's light still manages to shine bright in Jagga Jasoos; the role gives him plenty of scope to display his natural flair for gentle comedy - I love the scene in which he sets his quiff with a wooden clothes peg - but someone had the bright idea to make him sing all his lines, while blank-faced Kaif got to mouth hers in regular fashion. The travesty.

The rest of the cast, in particular the indomitable Bengali actor Saswata Chatterjee as Tutti-Futti, do their jobs admirably, supporting the lead pair as they bluster their way through this fantastical, almost-magical film. Oh, and there might be a sequel, if the huge hint in the climax is any indication. If this is to be, hope Jagga gets to have a fun doggy sidekick the next time.

Jagga Jasoos is in cinemas now.