Banners: Balaji Motion Pictures, Karma Media & Entertainment
Producers: Shobha Kapoor, Ekta Kapoor, Shaailesh R Singh
Director: Prakash Kovelamudi
Cast: Kangana Ranaut, Rajkummar Rao, Amyra Dastur, Hussain Dalal, Jimmy Sheirgill, Amrita Puri, Satish Kaushik, Brijendra Kala
Writer: Kanika Dhillon
Music: Rachita Arora, Arjuna Harjai
There are some films which have the power to shock you and stay with you long after you step out of the theatre. Prakash Kovelamudi’s first Hindi directorial, JudgeMentall Hai Kya is definitely that film. The hold of the storyline is so strong that it catches you by the throat at several moments and doesn’t let go. The film looks like an amalgamation of creative forces put together in terms of writing, vision and of course, the performances.
The story begins with the eccentric Bobby, who is a voiceover artiste, harbouring dreams to become a film actress. Living alone in a house with her cat Panvati, she photoshops her face against several movie backgrounds, wears colourful, mismatched clothes and intimidates with her abrupt behavior. Bobby is introduced to the latest tenants, a young couple named Keshav and Rima, who are also her neighbours. They seem like a perfectly normal couple on the outside but Bobby doesn’t believe that. She spies on the two of them, especially Keshav, whom she finds intriguing. After a dreadful tragedy, Bobby comes to believe that Keshav is not as innocent as he pretends to be, but as she suffers from acute psychosis, not even the police take her seriously. A few years later in London, Bobby and Keshav, who is now Shravan, bump into each other again and Bobby’s suspicions about him become stronger. Whilst dealing with her mental condition, Bobby tries to uncover the truth using the voices in her head. What she finds out and where it leads the two of them forms the crux of the story.
The first applause in this film goes to the unparalleled writing of Kanika Dhillon. She has taken a complex storyline and merged it with even more complex characters. Dhillon took a huge risk with penning a script that was heavy on its subtlety and symbolism, something that many people in this industry shy away from. And with the right kind of treatment to Dhillon’s vision, Kovelamudi takes it several steps ahead with his direction.
Psychedelic colours. Neon lights. Shadows. Nightmares. Haunting background score. Origami. Cockroaches. Masquerade masks. Futuristic Ramayana. This is JudgeMentall Hai Kya in a nutshell. Kudos to the lighting department for creating a world where you will fail at separating fact from fiction! The use of psychedelic, neon lights gives us a glimpse into the world which Bobby inhabits and is a reflection of her complex and convoluted psyche. There is an atmosphere of murk that looms large over the film that keeps the overall mood intact.
The eerie background sound will send chills down your spine. Tauba tauba deserves a special mention. It will continue to haunt you for a long time. Brownie points to sound designers PM Satheesh and Manoj M Goswami, for the film would be incomplete without their efforts.
As the film begins and gathers momentum, you will be introduced to a world where you are unsure of the sequences that are about to unravel. To be honest, there are moments where you will even feel uncomfortable, something that Hindi films can rarely boast of.
JudgeMentall Hai Kya can be described as rollercoaster ride where you are made to sit without a seatbelt. You will be driven all the way up and then experience a free fall. But surrender yourself to director Kolevamudi for he will give you an edgy yet fun ride that will remain etched in your minds for a long, long time. Here lies the biggest strength of the film. It is a classic whodunit murder mystery. It is a brilliant edge-of-the-seat thriller that will make you bite your nails and clench your fists. Even when the film comes to an end, you will not be able to heave a sigh of relief.
Much like Manmarziyaan, Dhillon creates yet another pair of characters who are flawed, extremely complex and multi-layered. Yet there is no room for sobs, sniffs and pity. At the end of it, we end up falling for the female protagonist and start rooting for her. It will require a whole lot of strength on your end to understand her tantrums and eccentricities but soon, you will feel your heart going out to her. Bobby is a personification of several uncomfortable and vulnerable emotions all rolled into one. She might be full of blemishes but she is sugar, spice and everything nice. Bobby’s mind is like a mystery room with mirrored walls. You do not know what awaits you and even if you do, you will end up questioning what you see. However, you will soon get used to the darkness and thorns. You will be treated to an unconventional, parallel world that you will hate to leave behind.
Dhillon’s writing never loses pace. This is one of those few films that saw a seamless transition from paper to the celluloid. This is why you will lose yourself into the worlds of Bobby and Keshav, unaware of the humdrums of everyday life. The film is so finely presented that there is no room for restlessness. The songs are impeccably blended into the narrative. The song Kis raste hai jana and its visuals will leave you smiling.
The note on which the film ends will warm your hearts and leave you wanting more. Many of your questions might remain unanswered but perhaps beauty does indeed lie in unfinished tales. The wakhra song comes as a breather after a heavy anti-climax but despite being a song that screams gloss and glam, it does not dampen the impact and impression that the film leaves on you.
There are moments in the second half when you will feel like you are watching a Broadway play. Production designer Ravi Shrivastav creates an ambience that nudges you into an uncanny and yet awe-inspiring world. Bobby’s cozy home decorated with origami, portraits and dreams is a sight to behold!
The Ramayana allusions that include motifs of Sita’s agni pareeksha and the downfall of Rama’s nemesis Ravana are things to watch out for. The second half of the film is built on a modern retelling of the ancient Indian epic. The lines and situations are so finely connected that you will be left overwhelmed.
JudgeMentall Hai Kya holds terrific repeat value. Perhaps, the more you watch it, the more will you be able to unfurl newer layers.
Performance-wise, Kangana Ranaut yet again pushes the envelope by stepping out of her comfort zone. The way she brings out the quirks in her eccentric character is smooth and flawless. She has yet again proved that she is an actor par excellence. And speaking about flawless, Rajkummar Rao as the lead actor is just that. Mirroring the craziness of Ranaut and adding his own subtle simplicity to it, the actor shows us that he doesn’t need any other tangible elements to portray his character to the ‘T’ and it all just comes naturally to him. Hussain Dalal adds to the hilarity of the bizarre ongoings. Amyra Dastur has limited screen time and is decent. Satish Kaushik and Brijendra Kala made the perfect cop duo. Jimmy Sheirgill makes a strong impact in his special appearance and Amrita Puri is good.
Verdict: A must watch for cinema lovers!