'Jolly LLB': Engaging courtroom drama enlivened by sparkling performances

Film: Jolly LLB; Starring: Arshad Warsi, Boman Irani,Sourav Shukla, Amrita Rao; Directed by Subhash Kapoor; Rating: ****

It's not often that a film manages to hit us in the solar plexus with a statement on an epidemic social disease, and yet succeeds in telling a story so engaging you want to jump out of your seat and applaud the enterprising spirit that surges through the veins of this engrossing saga of the judge, the judged and the damned.

What ails the legal system in our country? We could go on and on about that one, and still not be anywhere close to solving the conundrum of legalese.

Subhash Kapoor's brilliantly scripted film seeks to examine the loopholes in the legal system through which the rich and the privileged manage to go scot-free after committing terrible crimes.

In this case, it's a young tycoon mowing down six pavement dwellers in his fancy car in the dead of the night.

Sounds familiar? "Jolly LLB" grabs the headlines about a rich spoilt kid from a privileged family involved in a hit and run case, and turns it into a rollercoaster ride that takes us into the courtroom to witness the young struggling lawyer from Meerut, Jolly (Arshad Warsi) take on the mighty attorney Jaipal (Boman Irani).

It is the classic David & Goliath tale with so many enticing twists and turns that by the end of it you want to kiss the hand that wrote this script.

Every role, big or small, is written with so much care and enacted with so much affection that you can't help feeling a sense of pride for the plethora of acting talent we have in our cinema.

Characters invariably played by accomplished actors keep popping up right till the end as though life in films could throw forward surprises denied in real life to us.

Writer-director Subhash Kapoor makes the drab and the dull reality of Indian life come alive with his vivacious humour and savage digs at the games the rich play to vanquish their adversaries.

Kapoor proves in his post-debut film that "Phans Gaya Re Osama" was no flash in the pan. In "Jolly LLB", he displays a much tighter grip over his narrative graph.

The solid sturdy screenplay throws forward surprises and shocks as layer after layer of corruption and compromise are peeled off leaving behind the raw hurting wounds of betrayal and hurt.

Though Jolly wins his case at the end, his story left me deeply saddened. Is this the India that our forefathers fought to free for our future generations, where a hotshot ruthlessly immoral lawyer smirks in the courtroom, "Now, if people sleep on the pavements there is a risk of them being killed."

Right, Sir. In any case the poor don't really deserve to live, do they?

In a sequence that comes as one of many radical turning-points in the plot, Arshad stops on a pavement to take a pee. A man pleads, "Could you urinate somewhere else? My family sleeps here?"

Such moments of gut-wrenching heartbreaking poignancy cut through the cynical space that this sharp witty and provocative courtroom drama occupies.

If life and art were entirely fair, Arshad would be one of the biggest stars in our film industry. As a petty lawyer whose conscience undergoes a rousing awakening, Arshad once again gives a superlative performance creating a compelling graph for his small-town lawyer's overreaching character.

As for Boman Irani, this actor's brilliance has no full stops. Here as the mean manipulative lawyer, he creates a snarling evil and a contempt for human value though the narrowing of the eye or curling of the lip.

But my favourite performance comes from Saurav Shukla. As a seemingly indolent sloppy slob of a judge who comes into his own as the case progresses, he serves up the film's biggest lesson: never undermine the moral strength of a seemingly desensitized Indian.

"Jolly LLB" is a film of myriad virtues. Legal proceedings would never be the same again. This is the kinkiest, craziest, most artful and thought provoking courtroom comedy-drama in years with impeccable performances by the ever-dependable Boman, Saurav and the grossly underrated Arshad.

An inspirational drama told with a flair for the comic and the ironical, this is film which never falls short of heart and guts.

Jolly good, Mr. Subhash Kapoor.

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