Watching Jhund is akin to watching a film and its sequel pretty much back to back with an interval separating it, hence turning out to be ‘ek movie ke saath ek free’. While the first half is like Lagaan and Chak De! India been condensed by half and presented as a full movie, the second half is about what happened to the respective players after their big moment of glory. Did they all get back to their lives or turn into full blown sports people? Most importantly, was it easy for them to build life from this point on?
Somewhere at the core of it, writer-director Nagraj Manjule [Sairat] had a very good idea. ‘Rehabilitation is not just one time, it’s a continued process’, is what he wishes to convey. However, in the process of doing that, he stretches it all so much that it loses its charm. The first half is still okay, despite its jerky narrative in the first 30 minutes of build up, since you wait for that big moment to arrive (which it indeed does in the pre-climax footfalls match between the slum kids and the school students). However, the second half is all over the place.
First and foremost, it needs to be mentioned that the narrative style chosen by Nagraj Manjule is a mixed bag. Sometimes there is a filmy appeal that comes in with jump cuts, striking cinematography, vibrant look & feel, rap songs in the background and generally zany feel. This is what you enjoy seeing since there is a different kind of color in the personality of the slum kids. However, in between this, there is this whole documentary style narrative applied where characters pretty much look at the camera and talk as if they are questioned by a news anchor.
Now that turns out to be jarring, especially in the second half where two scenes particularly stand out. First when kids start sharing their background stories with Big B and later the character of Rinku Rajguru [Sairat] is introduced out of nowhere and a fair share of the second half is dedicated to her struggles around gaining a passport. In between this all, there are these sudden edit cuts where even reaction shots aren’t captured to the fullest and you are required to figure out ‘what really happened here’ on your own.
Moreover, even as actors, the kids are not all that brilliant. This by no means is a Slumdog Millionaire or ABCD or Hichki where kids seemed to be either trained already or were made to slog it out before facing the camera. Here, maybe it’s due to the documentary style narrative applied by Nagraj Manjule, the dramatic quotient is kept at the minimal. On the other hand this could also due to the deficiency in acting skills of these youngsters, due to which the results are jarring. The only who holds some kind of screen presence is Ankush Gedam who plays Don.
In fact it is also interesting to see Akash Thosar, the leading man of Sairat, return as the antagonist here. As a bully, he is not recognizable at first but then as he begins to reappear on the scene at regular intervals, you get connected with him. Rinku Rajguru is fair, though she has been similar characters film after series/film now (Unpaused, 200 Hall Ho).
Of course, at the end of it all, it’s the towering presence of Amitabh Bachchan which is the best of all. However, since there is so much screen time that the slum kids have even in isolation that his presence seems a bit scattered. In fact especially in the second half of the film, one would have liked to see him for more time that he appears.
All in all, Jhund is a film that comes with a good theme and a cause. However as a film per se, it is one hour too long and had the film balanced it out between drama and sports (footfalls scenes are quite well shot) rather than making it so much more about the trials and tribulations of the slum kids, the end results would have been far better.