Cast: Om Puri, Annu Kapoor, Satish Kaushik, Seema Biswas, Adil Hussain
Director: Ranjit Kapoor
Rating: * *
Intended as a satirical take on the country’s political system and the manner in which the fourth estate projects it, ‘Jai Ho Democracy’ doesn’t have any uniqueness to it’s storyline because similar films like ‘War Chhod na yaar’, ‘Kya Dilli Kya Lahore’ and many others which follow the Oscar winner ‘No Man’s Land’ pattern, have come before it and bitten the dust at the Box Office too.
There’s a verbal skirmish when a stray hen waddles from under the barbed wire fence into the no man’s land demarcated along the Indo-Pak border by the LOC on both sides. On hearing the commotion, the squadron leader (Mukesh Tiwari) rushes out from on his way to a bath, to figure out what the noise was all about. What he sees is; jawans from both sides holding fire , ready to shoot at any moment. Not wanting to lose face and seeing this as a prestige issue for the army, he enquires from the officer in-charge for permission to engage with the enemy in order to rescue the hen – he is given a strict no. So he sends the young cook after the hen to pull off a rescue. The cook is unable to make headway and slides into a ditch in order to save himself from enemy fire. Night passes and a new dawn begins but the cook is still stuck in no man’s land along with the hen and a new entrant from the enemy side. In the meantime fresh developments in Parliament allow for a special committee to be set-up to decide on whether India should go to war with Pakistan over a hen. The Home Minister Dulari Devi (Grusha Kapoor) doesn’t want to own responsibility for the acquired tension so she gets parliament to set up a Panel to decide the fate of the young jawan and the hapless hen.
In an attempt to emulate the ‘Ek Ruka Hua Faisla’ closed-in debate the director /writer sets-up an eminent panel of stalwart actors to fill in the shoes of parliament’s most lampooned faces. So there’s Om Puri as Pandeyji a notorious septuagenarian given to sexual peccadilloes , Seema Biswas emulating a well known Bengali Politician as Mohini Devi, Satish Kaushik as a Jat strongman Chaudhury, Annu Kapoor as a former south Indian Judge and anointed chairman of this special committee Ramalingam, a lady Minister Mrs Bedi (Rajni Gujral)representing Punjab’s political family, Adil Hussain giving the North-east a voice as Major Baruah and Aamir Bashir doing his bit as the voice of Kashmir as Bashir Baig. It’s of course a pointless debate because the clueless panelists talk about being in camera to pass a crucial bill, as empowered by Parliament. Instead of discussing the matter at hand they indulge in personal back-chat that leads to an implosion. And they never get to the point either.
The meeting becomes a battleground for ego bashing, pointed disrespect and clash of individual attitudes. Meanwhile the jawan and hen are languishing in no man’s land. No one bothers about what the Pakistani side is doing about their jawan. You don’t get to see what happens on the other side of the border and therefore might come to a conclusion that they are less hysterical and given to calmer decision making processes. but that may not be the reality…
The script in fact goes haywire trying to justify the hue and cry over something so innocuous. The coherence and tension are missing big-time. The tone is pretty much flat and the treatment more toonish than satiric! In fact it would be hard for any logical person to link the hullaballoo at the border with the setting-up of a high-powered committee. The link is fragile at best and what transpires thereafter is so ridiculous and uneventful that you just don’t feel connected with it. The stereotypical representation of parliamentarians allows for some display of skill but the actors are all found pretty much wanting. Annu Kappoor does a bad south Indian impersonation, Adil Hussain tries hard to fit his act into the North-eastern stereotype and appears labored. Aamir Bashir, Seema Biswas, Satish Kaushik and Om Puri are merely passable. Rajni Gujral has precious little to do. The film does have it’s brief forays into laughter inducing moments but it’s more to do with posturing than any lively writing or humorous dialogue. Slapstick and a unjustifiable climax are certain downers. Editors try hard to keep it lean but the lack of substance in the plotting and the discontinuity in the telling don’t allow for plausibility or coherence. This one’s not a very accomplished or innovative critique of the system. One expected better though from a director who has an enviable record in theatre!