Jolly LLB: A not so jolly fare

MUMBAI: Courtroom drama is a rare genre in Hindi film industry, possibly because there is little that is exemplary or inspiring coming out of legal stories. Also, a courtroom drama is a verbal battle of wits and needs good script and skill with dialogue, both of which are rather tough to find. In such an event, the inspiration has to come from a foreign film, especially to base your protagonists on. Arshad Warsi‘s character, in that case, identifies with that of Joe Pesci in the 1992 Hollywood hit, My Cousin Vinny. Only, here it is blended with the screen persona of Warsi. And so also that of the judge, played here by Saurabh Shukla. Of course, the plot is given an Indian hue having been based on the story of Delhi‘s infamous Sanjeev Nanda case about drunken driving, running over and killing six people in 1999.

Producers: Fox Star Studios

Director: Subhash Kapoor.

Cast: Arshad Warsi, Boman Irani, Saurabh Shukla, Amrita Rao, Mohan Kapoor, Mohan Agashe, Harsh Chhaya, Manoj Pahwa, Ramesh Deo.

Warsi is a lawyer in Meerut, a town about 70kms from Delhi. Like many of his breed, he chases and solicits clients for simple court proceeding like affidavits since nobody would trust him, a fresh out-of-college lawyer, to handle a serious case. In any case, high profile cases are not happening in his town. His ambition to make it big as a legal luminary seems impossible to him in Meerut. Convinced that his only chance to make it big is to go to Delhi, he makes the move leaving his girlfriend, Amrita Rao, behind. Once in Delhi, things are no different. He is still running after anybody and everybody in the court premises seeking a client for simple court paperwork.

Boman Irani, who ranks among the top few lawyers, is in the district court to defend one of his most controversial clients, Rahul Dewan, the scion of the big business house. The scion has driven his car into six people in a drunken stupor killing them all. Since Irani, one of the renowned practitioners is handling the case, Warsi, among others, is also in the audience to learn a thing or two and he is awed by the way Irani gets his client released in a few minutes.

Warsi is impressed but idle as he is, decides to dig into the case thinking that this is his chance and that, in India, a PIL is the best way to get noticed and draw media attention overnight, especially, in a case is as controversial as this. The whole world and the media knows the scion killed people but Irani proved it otherwise. A novice, Warsi, who has never argued a court case, learns from his adversary, Irani, and goes along to use what he learnt from him against him as the things proceed. But Irani proves too smart for him, because Warsi‘s prime eye-witness turns out to be Irani‘s plant. Irani uses Warsi to get his dues from the Dewans.

After that, the scriptwriter takes an easy route; there is a constable who auctions and allots prime posts in Delhi police to the highest bidder (the one with a 65-lakh bid for Delhi Sadar gets the plum post). He agrees to handover the accident videos to Warsi. This is script writing of convenience.

Warsi is the underdog and has taken on a big fish in Irani and the media want to ride with him. However, the viewer goes along with Saurabh Shukla, the judge, for he is also with the underdog because as he says, ‘The law may be blind but the judge is not.‘ His other observation: ‘The day the case begins, I know what is right but I need to wait till somebody presents proof.‘

The problem with the handling of Jolly LLB is that, with Warsi and Irani in the lead, it has been promoted as an outright comedy; that is the impression all its media promotion gives. However, the film is never sure about its aim. It keeps swinging between a comedy, a serious social issue and a dig at the Indian judicial system. It could simply have been a good vs. evil or a right vs. wrong story.

The script is bereft of excitement or twists and turns that could hold a viewer‘s interest. The film has but one such, when Harsh Chhaya turns out to be Irani‘s plant. Director Subhash Kapoor does just a passable job as his characters lack consistency; Irani is a lawyer rated along with Sibal and Jethmalani but loses control at the smallest of adversity while Warsi‘s ambition is to make a name but falls for the first carrot hung at him, a cut of Rs 20 lakh. In this film pitting Warsi and Irani, it is the referee, the judge, who steals a march; Saurabh Shukla is excellent. Amrita Rao, Warsi‘s love interest has nothing much to do. Dialogue doesn‘t provide scope for the verbal duel one would wish for in a courtroom drama. Music is of little help.

Mere Dad Ki Maruti: A flat script

Producer: Ashisha Patil.

Director: Ashima Chibber.

Cast: Saqib Saleem, Rhea Chakrobarty, Ram Kapoor, Prabal Punjabi, Ravi Kissen, Benazir Shaikh, Karan Mehra, Ritu Khanna Vij.

A Punjabi wedding becomes impressive depending on the gifts bestowed on the son-in-law and to a filmmaker it gives a chance to fill the screen with colour, dances and songs.

Ram Kapoor‘s daughter, Benazir Shaikh, is due to marry her boyfriend of many years, Karan Mehra. Kapoor is very happy at the choice as he has always liked Mehra more than he likes his son, Saqib Saleem. For his only daughter, he has decided to gift a high-end Maruti car as a bidaai gift. Saleem does not think much of his brother-in-law to be and thinks it is unfair to give away a new car to him on pretence of giving it to his sister when he himself has no car of his own. Saleem has a sidekick in Prabal Punjabi.

Saleem likes a particular college hottie, Rhea Chakarobarty, and often tries to approach her but she is hooked to another guy. But then Chakrobarty ticks off her boyfriend and Saleem sees a chance for him to invite her out that night. Wanting to impress his date, Saleem decides to ‘borrow‘ the new Maruti delivered the same day. His plan is very simple: take the car out on the sly, impress the girl, replace it quietly and no one need be any wiser. All goes according to plan and it is time to drop off Chakrobarty back to her hostel. Having done that, Saleem decides he has not had enough of the evening yet. He goes back to the bar to enjoy some more. He is too excited at the outcome of the evening to see that he is handing over the car keys to a person dressed in black, thinking that is the valet.

There is a girl by his side and car keys in his hand. The man in black decides to take a spin. When he stops to try some ideas with the girl, the cops spring up. The man in black vanishes, leaving the car. The car makes one more journey on its own when a few kids see the car in unlocked, they push it and it lands in some no man‘s land kind of lane.

Saleem and his sidekick Punjabi are done at the bar and want the car keys from the real valet. His troubles start here. There is no car and Kapoor is sure to find the garage empty in the morning. All sorts of tricks are resorted to so that there is a car in the garage, with the same model and same colour for Kapoor to see until the real one is found. From here till the car is traced should have been a fun ride but it is not. The writers do not manage to give the viewer much enjoyment or thrill until about 15 minutes before the end.

Mere Dad Ki Maruti comes from Y Films, a division of Yash Raj Films, under which the company gives opportunities to new ideas and talents. However, in the case of Mere Dad Ki Maruti, the idea has come from the Hollywood hit, Dude, Where‘s My Car? Just finding a good starting point is not enough even if it has come from a foreign film. And with newer faces in the lead, the script needed to be solid.

With content that has little to work on and a budget that is limited; director Ashima Chibber (also one of the three writers) does not deliver. Dialogue is routine and quite a lot of it in Punjabi. Music is all Punjabi and to those who don‘t dig it, it is just a lot of sound. Fine, it is about a Punjabi wedding and based in Chandigarh but did it have to be an almost Punjabi film? Ram Kapoor, in fact, struggles to pass off as a thorough Punjabi. Saleem can loosen up a little. Rhea Chakrobarty and Prabal Paunjabi are okay. Karan Mehra is good in a brief role. Ravi Kissen in a cameo is effective.

Mere Dad Ki Maruti may be one of the most economical films made and released only through digital platform but is a disappointment for the exhibitors since only a good word of mouth could have brought some patrons to the halls which is unlikely.

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