Young gun Dijo Jose Antony is only one film old in the Malayalam film industry but managed to give new meaning to the campus movie genre with his debut effort “Queen (2018)”, which, despite featuring a fresh cast of newcomers, managed to smartly blend college life with a strong social message and the thrills of a legal procedural. In “Jana Gana Mana” the director has established stars to work with and leverages them to the best possible extent, delivering a strong, message-oriented thriller that balances massy moments with unexpected twists to keep the audience hooked for its entirety.
“Jana Gana Mana” arrived in theatres having already veered delectably off the beaten path, having released its teaser and trailer with scenes not from the movie but from its upcoming sequel, in what is surely a first of its kind promotional stunt in world cinema. The trailer especially featured a 4-minute awe-inspiring one-shot action sequence that had captured the imagination of Malayali audiences and it was with this burden of expectations that the movie premiered across screens worldwide today.
We follow the story of ACP Sajjan, played by the ever-dependable National Award winner Suraj Venjaramoodu, who is assigned the sensational case of the brutal murder of a college professor who was adored by her students and was known for her staunch political stands. As the student protests build due to political interference and constant hurdles being placed in the investigation, the case moves to a tense courtroom drama, where the pace becomes breakneck, and the stakes become monumental.
Despite a sluggish first half laced with some cringe-worthy moments of excess melodrama and misplaced songs, the introduction of Prithviraj’s character and the inflexion points in the plot at the onset of the second half more than makes up for it. Vincy Aloshious is especially on-point in her supporting role as a student leader while Pasupathy Raj, Mamtha Mohandas, GM Sundar and Shari also deliver convincing performances. Jakes Bejoy’s background score is a rousing companion to the narration throughout the length of the film, providing emotion and stimulation in equal measure, making the punch dialogues whistle worthy and generating goosebumps in the mass elevation scenes.
Prithviraj and Suraj Venjaramoodu deliver another brilliant lead-duo combination hit after the blockbuster “Driving License (2019)”, albeit with few scenes together. With a lingering promise of more back-and-forth between these two captivating actors in the sequel, I can’t wait to see how their sparkling chemistry is carried forward. Without giving too much away about Prithviraj’s character, he is enigmatic and powerful in equal measure and delivers strong messages about many of the societal evils we are facing in the world around us.
The plot of the movie would have seemed ludicrous about 5 years ago but having seen and heard about incidents like the 2020 Jawaharlal Nehru University Attacks and false-flag operations and co-ordinated cyber-attacks deliberately set up by governments to sway voters as elections approach, truth is stranger than fiction in the world we live in today where right-wing fundamentalists have overrun our polity and have made extraconstitutional and extrajudicial decisions their second nature. While the messaging tends to get a bit loud and the storyline is sometimes spoonfed to the audience without much subtlety, one can forgive the makers as such is the importance of the messages they are trying to put out with this earnest project.
The director and writer Sharis Mohammed deserve all the praise in the world for performing a magician’s sleight of hand in the final act of the film, ending this tantalizing first instalment on a knife-edge, with the unsaid promise of making the franchise a genre-bending, era-defining duology, With the trailer and the teaser apparently giving us only a glimpse of what Dijo, Prithviraj and this kickass team have planned for us in the second instalment, the anticipation is clearly through the roof as to what they will come up with, without the shoot restrictions enforced by Covid that they had to circumvent for the first part. “Jana Gana Mana” is a mandatory theatre watch that should open the doors to braver, more political thrillers in the future for Malayalam cinema! Recommended!
Review by nidhunmoviebuff