BY TROY RIBEIRO
Film: ‘Jalsa’ (Streaming on Amazon Prime). Duration: 130 minutes.
Director: Suresh Triveni. Cast: Vidya Balan, Shefali Shah, Manav Kaul, Rohini Hattangady, Iqbal Khan, Vidharti Bandi, Shrikant Mohan Yadav, Shafeen Patel and Surya Kasibhatla.
The title ‘Jalsa’, which means a festive meeting or gathering, is a misnomer for an intense and emotional film like this one.
Director Suresh Triveni’s film is the story of two mothers, Maya Menon (Vidya Balan) and Ruksana (Shefali Shah), whose lives are intertwined by fate. The audience is immediately immersed into the lives of the characters, their situations and their roles in it, as Triveni masterfully conveys both the inner worlds of the characters and accounts of their actions.
Maya is a renowned and formidable TV anchor working at WRD News Network. She is the mother of Ayush (Surya Kashibatla), a differently abled child, who is looked after by her mother (Rohini Hattangady) and the maid Ruksana, who has two children — the teen Alia and the younger Imad.
One late Friday night, in an unfortunate accident, Maya’s car hits a girl — and she leaves the bleeding victim to her fate on the roadside. Guilt gnaws at her. With frayed nerves, she confides in Amar Malhotra (Iqbal Khan), her boss and love interest, who tells her that she did the right thing as otherwise she would be accused of ‘drunk driving’, which would be detrimental for her image.
A day later, Maya learns that the victim in the hit-and-run case is Ruksana’s daughter Alia. She goes out of her way to help Ruksana and her family, who are still trying to figure out what their daughter was up to, on the streets at that late hour.
Ruksana is overcome by shame, and so is her husband Salim, who works as a spot boy in the film industry. Salim is resigned to fate, but Ruksana is a fighter struggling to survive the ordeal.
Meanwhile, Rohini (Vidhatri Bandi), a trainee at WRD News Network, in the hope of getting independent credit for a story, is hell-bent on investigating this hit-and-run-case. The police too, are caught up in their issues.
Designed in a diary format, the film chronicles the events that take place from the Friday the accident occurred till the following Friday. During this phase, we witness emotions and reactions that are relatable and invariably touch a soft spot of our soul.
Shefali Shah and Vidya Balan are both brilliant actors delivering flawless performances. Supporting them with equal fervour is Surya Kasibhatla, who is endearing as Ayush. Your heart melts when he defends Ruksana and later calls his mother weird. Equally charming is the bond he shares with Shafin Patel, who essays Imad.
Iqbal Khan and Manav Kaul are stock characters, and Sharad as Salim is a notch better than them.
The film begins with a promise, but by mid-point, its tempo slackens and the pulse does not revive. In the final act, the narrative tries to resolve its multifaceted tensions neatly, but this appears like a flat-toned, rushed resolution, with Maya adrift with her own life and the bond with her maid resulting in conflict, and in this instance, the promise of potential understanding and reconciliation.
Overall, ‘Jalsa’ is a well-made film at odds with its roiling emotions.