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Jalsa: Girl Power Multiplied by 3
Jalsa: The ladies are lording over the visual arts. Just when we thought we couldn’t get enough of Alia Bhatt’s masterclass-act in Sanjay Bhansali’s Gangubai Kathiawadi, Amazon Prime Video known to celebrate girlpower for no special reason except that the ladies are special, no matter what the occasion, is back with what looks like a powerful study of privilege, exploitation and media effrontery.
The trailer of Jalsa doesn’t waste time in preliminaries. It plunges us into the deeply disturbing plot about a hit-and-run case, probably inspired by real life . Two women played by two of the most powerful contemporary dramatic actresses of Hindi cinema, are placed at the forefront of what seems to be a battle of morality played out to a feverish photo-finish.
The two ladies who take centerstage are Vidya Balan who plays a high-profile news anchor(good to see her on the other side of the media cameras after No One Killed Jessica) and Shefali Shah IS(please note , I didn’t say plays) Rukhsana, a seething inwardly raging househelp . The two ladies who reminded me of Shabana Azmi and Deepti Naval in Jagmohan Mundhra’s Kamla, are caught in a battle-royale woven carefully, slickly around a high-profile hit-and-run case.
Providentially, slickness doesn’t seem to be a sickness in this carefully constructed conflict of interest between the powered and the disempowered. It also seems to question those convenient socio-political demarcations whereby the disempowered are always portrayed as victims.
With two powerful actresses at the helm there is little that can go wrong in the drama being played on screen in Jalsa. But hang on. There is a third pivotal female character in Jalsa, a ruki-ruki-si rookie journalist,played by Vidhatri Bandi, who is determined to unearth the layers of corruption that divide the bitter truth from numbing wealth.
In is interesting to see director Suresh Triveni give Vidya Balan a complete change of image in his sophomore feature film, Jalsa..While she was a blithe singing housewife in Tumhari Sallu , in Jalsa Vidya is a different entity.Steely nerved and determined not to crumble under pressure.
Going by the trailer the male actors Iqbal Khan , Manav Kaul(Sallu ke miyan) are relatively eclipsed . It is the women who take centrestage in Jalsa,and that’s the way it is meant to be when Vidya Balan is around. Wasn’t she the one wearing the pants in Amazon’s Sherni last year?