“As expected, Jail is a dark, brooding and morose film on the injustices of life and how human dignity can prevail despite bleak circumstances through resilience, perseverance and hope. Like all Bhandarkar films, Jail too is a social commentary akin to a documentary on the deplorable conditions within jails and most importantly the injustices endemic to the system. As a documentary, it does a great job of showing a slice of life that ordinary cinemagoers are (hopefully) not too aware of, but the masses just might be too well acquainted with. Precarious power play, exploitative class dynamics and general combat between justice and injustice are a major focus of Jail; achieving agonizing profundity by depicting the microcosm of society jail communal life is and can be: a mafia boss operating the underworld through the jail, for instance. Of course, like all Bhandharkar films, Jail is rich in desi street language, expletives and dialogues like “jail ki pehli raat aurat ki suhag raat jaisi hoti hai. Kitnee bhee koshish karo neend nahin aati.” (The first night in Jail is like a woman’s wedding night. However much she tries, she can’t go to sleep).
The heavy publicity that the stars of this film embarked on – including an appearance at Wills India Fashion Week – showed how much work they had put into the film. Particularly Neil Nitin Mukesh – who plays the lead role and manages to do relatively well if one over looks Neil’s character, Parag Dixit as an extension of John Abraham’s character in New York. But to give credit where its due, Neil matures tremendously in Jail with Parag. His dialogues are minimal and its all about his hard expression carefully crafted to deliver an abysmal despair that leads him to the brink of insanity. His anguished screams when he is put in solitary confinement, and when he attempts but fails to kill himself out of sheer despondency, are perfectly executed. If this performance doesn’t get Neil an award, we certainly don’t know what will.
However as much as the story is about Neil, it is equally about Nawab (Manoj Bajpai,) the silent butcher who has risen amongst the ranks with his superiors over the years on his sentence. With Nawab one sees the return of the hugely talented but terribly miscast Manoj Bajpai doing what he does best: flawless expressive acting. Manoj’s character is the voice of reason and goodness that guides Neil towards the right path and ultimate freedom. Credit is also due to Bhandarkar for getting melody queen Lata Mangeshkar back to render a soulful track for the film’s score.
Mughda Godse, though, as Neil’s supportive girlfriend, is a wasted character and a totally unnecessary appendage, whose character’s purpose could have easily been fulfilled by Neil’s mother. Nonetheless, Mughda’s bagged herself an award for Bhandarkar’s Fashion and probably chose to stay part of the production to continue the trend.
All in all, Jail is an intense and powerful film that is certainly a must watch, when and if one in the mood to be educated. However be warned that the entertainment quotient in this film is zero. The logical inconsistencies in Neil’s trial, such as the most obvious facts of his case, and subsequently his innocence are proved a bit too late. It was perhaps a necessary evil for Bhandarkar to propel the plot along, but it leaves the audience feeling that the film is being unnaturally stretched – Hani Taha Salim (Rating – 3 OUT OF 5)
Cast and Production Credits
Year – 2009, Genre – Drama, Country – India, Language – Hindi, Producer – Shailendra Singh, Director – Madhur Bhandarkar, Music Director – Shamir Tandon, Toshi, Sharib, Cast – Neil Nitin Mukesh, Mugdha Godse, Manoj Bajpai, Arya Babbar, Ashish Sharma, Rahul Singh, Sayali Bhagat