“Jolly LLB” – Movie Review

Jolly LLB, written and directed by Subhash Kapoor was released in India on March 15, 2013.  Arshad Warsi and Boman Irani give riveting performance in this court room docudrama, inspired by 1999 Sanjeev Nanda hit-and-run case.  The film is a satire on the callousness and inefficiency of Indian judicial system.  Saurabh Shukla in the role of the judge gives a masterful performance.

In a reckless act of drunken driving, a rich Delhi teenager mows down several members of a family sleeping on a footpath (sidewalk), with his speeding car.  How likely is it for a super rich kid in India, to go to jail?  Apparently, not very.  The story that follows is a story of greed and excess, Indian society’s callousness towards the poor, and a powerful story about how laws and justice can be twisted, manipulated, bought, sold, suppressed, and justice denied to anyone without wealth and connections, “जहाँ गरीब की जान आमिर की जान से सस्ती है”.  When a high profile, greedy, sleazy lawyer (played by Irani), gets the teenager off, due to lack of evidence, a small-time lawyer from Meerut (Arshad Warsi) who has recently relocated to Delhi, gets the case reopened.  Though initially tempted to take the money, concede his case, and back out, prodded by his girl friend (played by Amrita Rao), he challenges Irani, taunting him, आप से हारकर वकीलों की करियर बन जाती है तो आपको हराकर तो लाइफ बन जाएगी”.

I did not care for couple of songs that really did not seem to belong in the film and I couldn’t wait for them to end so we can get on with the story in the film.  They seemed to be thrown in there, only because it is a standard masala for a Bolywood film.  But overall, this is an excellent film, with a fast moving storyline.  Manipulation of the rule of law, by people with means, is nothing new, in India.  But while watching this action packed film, one does not feel that it is harping on the oft repeated real life saga of Indian society.  The humor and satire that come through from the excellent performance of Saurabh Shukla (playing the judge) gives just the right touch of levity, as the underlying tragic saga is unfolding.  While he seems to be going through the motions of hearing case after case and rendering verdicts that perhaps mock the process, Shukla is in fact, quite aware of how wealth makes mockery of law.  “कानून अँधा हो सकता है, लेकिन जज नहीं“, he says.  He explains, even when he is often keenly aware as to who is the perpetrator of the crime, he does not see the evidence to convict them because it is often suppressed and deals are made before the case comes to him.  He plays the game where money makes the rules, money can buy witnesses, police, and even the victim’s attorneys.  But when he sees the rules change, he is intrigued and determined to do his part, revealing the complexity of his character.

This is an excellent movie with the right mix of humor, drama, action, tragedy and comedy.   I rate it a 4 on a 1-5 scale, with 5 being excellent.

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