Jail - Movie Review

Published: Nov 07, 2009, 07:42 IST | Tushar Joshi

Jail a realistic film by Madhur Bhandarkar starring Neil Nitin Mukesh

A; Drama
Dir: Madhur Bhandarkar
Cast: Neil Nitin Mukesh, Mugdha Godse, Maoj Bajpai, Arya Babbar

What's it about: Jail inmates talk to each other in voiceovers as the opening credits start rolling. Taking us to right where the action is, we see the interiors of a jail with accused Parag Dixit (Neil) pushed, shoved to a corner and brutally interrogated. Flashback scenes reveal that Dixit is falsely implicated in a drug case and has been ordered to spend two years in jail. Today, guilty as charged, Parag comes from an educated background with a successful career in marketing. However, all that changes in a flash and his life spirals down a staircase that takes him into the dark dungeons of a bottomless pit. Despite his girlfriend Mansi's (Godse) attempts to prove him innocent, Parag gets trapped in the intricate nexus between the police force and the underworld. The jail serves as a backdrop, giving us a voyeuristic view into a day in the life of a prisoner. Keeping it real, Bhandarkar transcends beyond the basics and gives us a hard look at the life of an accused through the eyes of Parag. 
What's hot: Reality cinema being his forte, Bhandarkar knows which elements to tap into to make the proceedings interesting. Weaving the storyline with a spectrum of colourful characters, he shows the contrast that exists within the four walls of a prison. Clearly, his niche is the human mind and how it works in different environments. In Jail, he succeeds in giving us a first account of what goes through the mind of a prisoner when he leaves behind the all familiar and takes on a new life. Neil's initial struggle and tumultuous fight to rebel against the system within the jail is beautifully captured. Of course, the credit goes to the actor who rises above expectations and gives a stellar performance. Using innocence and vulnerability to his advantage, Neil goes beyond being a caricature and subtly transforms into a poignant spectator to everything around him. His tenderness and eloquences lies in his silence, which is used many a times to highlight the storm within his soul. Supporting cast is efficient with both Manoj Bajpai and Arya Babbar taking the story forward. Mugdha shows restraint in an otherwise hollow role.

What's not:  Despite the setting, there is an eerie void that fills you up halfway through the film. As you go from discomfort to ease and relax into your seat, the plot becomes predictable and the characters lack their initial draw and appeal. Some scenes like Parag's escape or his emotional meltdown stand out but only for a while. The graph staggers a rocky path scaling heights of drama and then falling down the valleys of tedium. Also, Neil's outburst and change of mind is sudden and jarring. Perhaps in an attempt to give the premise a closure and end, Madhur compromises on compelling storytelling. Unlike his other films, Jail does have an end, a cohesive totality, but it whimpers rather than roars as it draws to a conclusion. Atul Kulkarni's cameo sums up the film in a two-minute court monologue, making you wonder why he didn't fight Parag's case in the first place. As the evidence starts trickling in, proving his innocence, the plot loses credibility. 
What to do: Lacking the usual drama and style of a Bhandar-kar film, Jail has convincing performances but fails to leave an imprint on your mind like the predecessors.

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