Jail (Madhur Bhandarkar, 2009)
I'll save you 2 hours of your life and skip to the end: here's the message Madhur Bhandarkar wants you to take from Jail, his 2009 “exploration” of what REALLY happens behind bars:
He's not subtle about it either (surprise). Much of this film is like being hit over the head with a big, blunt Message in Capital Letters, be it the Difficult Plight of the Man (or Woman, I guess, this is the new millenium) with Morals Working in a Corrupt System; or There Are Homosexuals in Jail Too You Know; or Don't Get Involved With Gangsters You Will Only Lose Your Soul.
Observation #1: there's not a lot about what “really” happens in jail that hasn't already been adequately explored on film or reality television. If Jail was meant to be a shocking expose, it really, really falls short because what it reminded me of, more than anything else, was The Shawshank Redemption with added ridiculous courtroom scenes with special “Bollywood law” and a distinct lack of a compelling plot or interesting characters.
Seriously. That's a huge, huge problem, because initially (we're talking first five minutes, when I actually felt sorry for poor baby-faced Neil Nitin Mukesh who CLEARLY WOULD NOT SURVIVE A NIGHT IN A REAL JAIL) I liked the premise, and thought it had legs.
I could have seen those legs too, had they not been pixeled out.
Premise: Successful baby-faced guy with an awesome job I didn't pay any attention to except he just got made REGIONAL MANAGER which is apparently a BIG FREAKING DEAL Parag Malhotra Dixit (Neil Nitin Mukesh) has a dream life and a beautiful girlfriend (Mughda Godse) who looks and acts kind of vacant but whatever, apparently they're totally in love (no chemistry so use your imagination). His room-mate/coworker is a bit weird but I guess he pays the rent so Parag totally overlooks the fact that weirdo roomie is constantly borrowing, without asking, HIS CLOTHES, HIS CELLPHONE, and GOD KNOWS WHAT ELSE. He's also always asking him for rides home from work at the last minute and he CARRIES A MAN-BAG.
Dude, DON'T YOU KNOW THAT THAT'S HOW YOU TOTALLY GET PULLED OVER AND END UP IN A SHOOT-OUT WITH THE COPS? Before you know it, weirdo roomie is dead and Parag is in jail for both shooting at cops and possession of a crapload of narcotics.
That's as exciting as the film gets, because from now on FOR THE NEXT TWO HOURS, we enter a repetitive cycle of
- Neil Nitin Mukesh crying, sulking, or having an emo about being in jail.
- Conversations between Neil Nitin Mukesh and Manoj Bajpai playing Nawab, the Morgan Freeman “Wise Older Prisoner” character. Basically: Parag is an idiot and Nawab is wise and kindly and is destined to be disappointed in Parag's choices...or is he?
- Look! There are corrupt prison guards! Look, prisoners pretend to be each others friends then sell each other out to get ahead! Look! Life on the outside goes on! Look! Neil Nitin Mukesh is crying again!
- Ridiculous court scene based entirely on Bollywood law principles.
Observation # 2: The films that depend on the law the most for their storyline to make sense HAVE THE LEAST GRASP OF IT and resort to highly simplistic, illogical “Bollywood law” (resulting in mass facepalms from the audience). An example of Bollywood law: “Witnesses saw that you did not have a gun and that it was your friend that fired at the police, so we acquit you of the charge of shooting at an officer” (YAY!) “But the drugs were in the backseat of your car so they must be yours, and the law says you must have 10 years in jail, and this is unchallengable in court, and I'm the judge and my word is law” (FACEPALM).
There's a minor bright spot in the form of Arya Babbar:
but he's not worth watching the film for. IT'S SO BORING.
It would have been awesome if ultimately, it turned out that Parag, sweet, unprepared for jail, babyfaced innocent Parag, who won the trust and goodwill of everyone...WAS GUILTY ALL ALONG. (Okay not especially original, but it would have been satisfying). As it is, I prefer my innocent guy gets sent to jail films to run along the Sunny Deol lines: less crying and whinging about it, more KICKASS REVENGE.