A Jolly Good Time Pass

Jolly llb

                  Nothing succeeds like success. With the role of Circuit under his belt, Arshad Warsi’s capacity to act isn’t really a question any more. In fact as Munna Bhai’s right hand man, he did more justice to Circuit than Sanjay Dutt did to Munna Bhai. But that was Sanjay Dutt and this is just Arshad Warsi. And that is “Jolly LLB”s only problem – that the lead role is played by the less successful Arshad Warsi.  Not that the movie had the capacity to go down the annals of Hindi Cinema as a path breaking comedy or anything of the sort. But with big star names it might have easily touched the coveted 100 cr mark, a flimsy love angle and uncalled for emotionalism notwithstanding.

                “Jolly LLB” very convincingly dramatises what is wrong with our lawyers and legal system today- how a degree and profession that had the capacity to be one of the noblest, defending the innocent and upholding the law, has become nothing but a time pass for the unemployed youth and a money making racket in the hands of the powerful, justice be damned. Prosecution is in  fact “prostitution” and an appeal is worth as much as an “apple” and a lawyer who doubles up as an astrologer is valued more than “only” lawyers.

                       Arshad Warsi plays the hapless lawyer Jagdish Tyagi from Meerut who comes to the bad world of Delhi in an attempt to make it big. However his situation doesn’t change much except when he happens to witness the hot shot lawyer Tejinder Rajpal ,played by Boman Irani, defend his obviously guilty client in an incident inspired by the Nanda hit and run case of 1999. Seeing it as an opportunity to strike gold, Jolly files a PIL with no motive other than cheap publicity and some ensuing success. However what he does open up is a can of worms- an unending story of botched up police investigations, the plight of the poor in our country whose death also is an opportunity for the powers that be, money transferring more hands than one can keep track of and the hot shot lawyer extracting money from his clients by all means fair and foul. What Jolly becomes is an unwitting pawn in this game of the rich and the powerful until his conscience, in the form of his girl friend and the silent canteen owner, wakes up and sets him on the right path.

                       As a hapless wannabe lawyer struggling to make it big, Warsi does full justice to his character bringing forth all the nuances of Jolly- a desire to make it big, a pained frustration behind the cheerful exterior, and once on the fight for truth, a determination to pursue it till the end all odds notwithstanding. If only our industry valued actors more than stars ! Boman Irani as the conniving Tejpal gives the word “dirty lawyer” a totally new meaning. Not only does he manipulate the police and judicial system, he has no qualms whatsoever in doing the same with his clients as well when he feels he has not got his just due. It is however the judge played by Saurabh Shukla who comes as the surprise package. Starting out as a belching, farting obscene judge who apparently coudn’t care less about anything, he comes forth as Justice personified with a no nonsense attitude who however, has no choice but to wait blindly for evidence to come forth. But when evidence does come forth, there is nothing that comes in way of him delivering justice- no hot shot lawyer, no legal system wherein his judgement will be appealed against and possibly over turned by the higher court.  That is beyond his control. What in his control, he does that and does it with elan.

                              “Jolly LLB” is not simply a satirical comedy in the Kafkaesque tradition. It makes you laugh, makes you think but also shows you the way. Quite like Jolly ,even if you set out to do the right thing for the wrong reasons  ( filing a PIL for personal aggrandizement and not because justice was denied) but your heart is in the right place, the chances are that you do mend your reasons and also do the right thing. The situation may be dismal, the system may be loaded with flaws and people waiting to manipulate those flaws, but still there is hope- hope in the form of Jolly who decides to fight Tejpal whatever be the cost, Jolly’s cronies who help him including the pitiable body guard he is provided with and the judge himself who shows himself more capable and of more grit than what Tejpal had bargained for.  Only if we can look beyond big names and star presence, “Jolly LLB” is a fairly decent entertainment for an evening. 

Let’s not talk for the sake of talking…

                         “My heart leaps up when I behold a rainbow in the sky” wrote the most celebrated of the Romantic poets. Nature was Wordsworth’s muse. Chetan Bhagat seems to be becoming mine though not in a good way. Any time I don’t feel like or feel up to writing, I just have to see a post from Chetan Bhagat and “my heart leaps up” – albeit not with joy but with sheer frustration at the inanities he churns out and how the masses are lapping it up. My heart leaps out (not up) ,my blood boils over and I am compelled to pick up my pen and write.

            This time he speaks on the sexually repressed society that India is.(  http://blogs.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/The-underage-optimist/entry/let-s-talk-about-sex ) Sorry to disappoint you Mr Bhagat but no I didn’t fold my paper away secretively or slam shut my laptop on seeing the title of your post. Quite to the contrary the attention grabbing title that you have chosen ensures that people read the post. Content is of no importance. Nothing sells like sex- be it in cinema or print. Yes we are a sexually repressed society; yes we need to accept men-women relationships, sexual or platonic, for what they are; yes we need to talk about sex – but there has to be a method to the madness or to put it more prosaically, a reason to do so and a time and platform for it. Talking about sex for the sake of talking doesn’t serve any purpose. That would be no better than  voyeurism and that’s just about what the post does- state the obvious, state  what we already know with over simplifications and no concrete suggestions.

                   And the unavoidable number game starts all over- we have two problems around sex says he. Really? Just two? That somewhat cheers me up. The first problem with lack of openness is that sexual desire manifests in unsavoury ways- child molestation, rape. And I thought that had more to do with perversion, loss of humanity, lack of respect for other human beings and also total disregard for the law. Silly me! Going by his logic, USA with all its openness towards all matters sexual should be free from such crimes. Sadly it isn’t so. Rape, it has often been said, isn’t simply about sex- it’s about power- making another human being submit to your desires because you are more powerful. How about resisting from such over simplifications Mr Bhagat?

             Second problem he says is that it doesn’t allow meaningful discussion on any matter sexual. How many things do we have a meaningful discussion on in any case? Are our politicians, or even the self proclaimed custodians of society like Mr Bhagat himself, interested in doing anything meaningful for our society or country? Sadly no. No one has the political will to discuss any matter remotely controversial be it sexual or religious. Why blame the politicians? What is Mr Bhagat himself doing if not playing to the galleries by talking of women empowerment or where the protests against Delhi gang rape went wrong or , as in this post, by telling us how we are a sexually repressed society. Yes we are. What is one of the 100 most influential men in the world doing about it except churning out platitudes yet again? How about a meaningful, open debate on lowering/raising age of consent or the potential misuse of anti rape law or how the anti dowry law is already being misused in one of your posts Mr Bhagat?

                   The ills that plague our society and humanity are many. That no one who can make the slightest bit of difference is willing to do anything about it, is perhaps the most tragic of all such ills. Somewhere right in the beginning Mr Bhagat says that “we are Indians later and humans first”. But sadly he equates being human with being ruled by the most primodial of all instincts – sex. “Nature has made sex a powerful internal force. This force is so strong that despite all the progress and comforts designed by humanity, the power of sex still remains. People, Indians or non-Indians, are interested in sex.”  And here I thought we were capable of rising above our animal instincts and animal nature.  Really !! Silly, silly me!

                          Indians or not, Mr Bhagat, we all are human beings. And we as a race are capable of more than Delhi Gang Rape or Godhara. Let us shed our sacrosanct attitudes and display the last vestiges of humanity left in each one of us. How about walking the talk for a change Mr Bhagat?





The Unbearable Itch of Reading Chetan Bhagat

                     “Yeh ishq ishq hai, ishq, ishq” …so goes a famous qawwali from an old Hindi movie (Barsaat Ki Raat) that discusses love ,ishq, in great detail. When I was a child and had an unrelenting urge to just keep on fiddling with something that did not benefit me or even intrigue me in any way, my dad had his own rendition of this age old classic for me –“Yeh itch itch hai, itch itch” – not itch as in scratching but itch as in a longing restlessness to do something. This habit has not died down even now as I discovered much to my cost.

                         I happened to read Mr Chetan Bhagat’s five tips to women on Women’s Day and could not resist but post my reflections on. All would be fine if it ended there but no. I had to dig up and read many of his old blog posts- WHY?I ask myself. I don’t even like his writings or his sermons and advices. “Yeh itch itch hai, itch itch”…. thats all that I could come up by way of an answer.

                        What I have realised is that Mr Bhagat is obsessed with numbers. Look at the title of his books – “Five point someone”; “One night @ the call centre”; “The 3 mistakes of my life”; “2 states”; “Revolution 2020”. Even his blog posts are loaded with numbers.“Five things women need to change about themselves” being a case point and the other post that compelled me to write today- “Open Letter to The Indian Change Seekers” – too has a lot of numerical juggling in it. Maybe it’s the background in investment banking talking. And yes, he’s very fond of “open letters”. But more on that another day.

                           To be fair, I haven’t read most of his works. “Five point someone” I just about managed to run through; “One night @the call centre” made me panic that the night I had picked it up would be the end of me and as for “3 mistakes of my life”, all I knew was that picking up that book was one definitive mistake of my life. And thereafter regardless of the lucrative price tag his books carry, I never ventured to buy another one. Only that I chanced to come across his blog and the irresistible itch to read them took over.

           After  reading the advise he gave to women on the auspicious occasion of Women’s Day, I came across his “Open letter to the Indian Change Seeker(http://blogs.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/The-underage-optimist/entry/open-letter-to-the-indian-change-seekers)  inspired by the aftermath of the Delhi gang rape that saw unprecedented protests. Bad news for the protesters, who in any case, have long since gone back to their humdrum lives- Mr Bhagat doesn’t approve of the way they had gone about their protests. In order to make his point clear he goes on to “explain” India.  Move over A.L. Basham,  Bipan Chandra. Mr Bhagat is here to do the honours!

                   What follows is a mind boggling jugglery of numbers wherein he divides the Indian population into 4 categories and in this whole “Threes” and “Fours” game pretty much lost me. The point I think he was trying to make was that the “Threes”, i.e. the upper middle class, the likes of him and you and me, are using our new found power for self serving purposes just like the “Ones” (our political masters) and the “Twos” ( Industrialists and Capitalists) have been doing all along. The “Three” need to include, take along and also fight for the cause of the “Four”, the vast majority of our country who live in abysmal conditions. To make any change happen, the “Threes” should fight for the causes of the “Four” also- “only then is when true change will happen” he proclaims.

        No doubt there is some merit in his arguments. A modern sensibility has to include and at the same  time make concessions for traditional and conservative attitudes. Any change or revolution from the grass root level alone can work. To that extent we all would agree with him though there is nothing new that he is saying. However what intrigued me in the entire piece is a “holier than thou” attitude. He talks of the “Threes” misusing their media power for their ends. Who doesn’t? Writing, publication, success are today more about being media savvy than actual merit. He ought to know that better than anyone else. The one true test of any great literature is the test of time. How his works fare there is yet to be seen and well, anyone’s guess.

        What has he, whom Time magazine called “one of the 100 most influential people in the world” done for the “Fours”? It is one thing to be speaking on National Development in air conditioned halls of various conclaves and entirely another to be actually contributing towards the welfare of mankind, number tags being irrelevant.

                Media is what made him into a youth icon as it did many others. Isn’t it a tragedy of our times than none of these icons are willing to accomplish anything beyond pay token lip service? He himself says that he is a “Three”. How about preaching by doing? Why not set an example for us lesser mortals by accomplishing something for the masses?

       Why have I zeroed down on him and no one else? No it’s not simply my “itch” to do so but because he,unlike others, is one of the “most influential 100s” worldwide. And because I feel upset when people, who excel in one particular field ,assume that they are the know all and be all of everything else as well. Apparently he was a successful investment banker and thereafter became the best seller author though, to my mind, with mediocre novels. Does that also make him an authority on every matter and every ill  that plagues an individual or class or society? Even if so, why not preach by example? And why not, for a change, think out of the box? Churning out platitudes in different phrases doesn’t take much. Following them through does.Or maybe he doesn’t really mean anything? Maybe writing these posts is as much an “itch” for him as reading them has become for me. And this “itch” is a very dangerous thing-“yeh itch itch hai, itch, itch.”