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Some Ramblings - Jalsa
By Srinivas Kanchibhotla

The temptation is too hard to resist. With the over-abundance of technology, and its relative ease of use, it is tough to control the urge of tweaking and tinkering forever. It is never more evident than in the current music industry. Gone were the days, when the all the technicians (musicians and the singers) gathered in smoke filled sound proof booths and toiled to get the composition just right. Even the slightest deviation or a simple mistake forced the repeat the painful process all over again. And it is precisely for this reason that songs of yesteryears sounded pretty economical in their intent (whether the result was always appealing is a different matter altogether). They conveyed just what they set out to, nothing more and nothing less. Now, thanks (or, no thanks) to the latest technological innovations, a composer can sit in front of a huge programmable keyboard, capable of playing any instrument of his choice, without the unnecessary hassle of a live musician, and set out chiseling the song till, what he thinks is, pure perfection. It does not cost him anything extra to play out endless variations of a simple piece. At the end of it all, the resulting composition may sound very rich, very resource intensive. But burdened by the multiple layers of over-production, is the actual melody somewhere, deep, hidden, gasping for a little breath.

Welcome to the world of over-indulgence. Here, a whim costs next to nothing, a fancy is pretty much thrown in for free just for walking through the door, a fantasy probably comes with a bargain deal. Under such circumstances, where quantity has long surpassed quality as the yardstick for satisfaction, it begs to be asked, if abundance and ease of use of anything work for the benefit of something or detriment of the same?

'Jalsa' makes a very valid case for how excess overwhelms creativity. Right from the conception to the execution (scripting to direction), the movie smacks of over-wrought production. It might have started with a simple thread of how a guy, tried and tried, at love, and ultimately succeeded. Like the melody case above, the concept is short, sweet and cute. As to why it was thought that factionism, naxalism and socialism could be seamlessly integration or conveniently layered over a completely different theme, could be anybody's guess. It was as though it were two different movies altogether, rough stitched over each other - sweet first-half and a tone-deaf second half - like the double-bill features that are played during 'Sivaratri jagarana' days - the first one, a devotional 'Bhukailas' coupled with a talk of the town feature 'Pokiri' - an ill-adjusting marriage, made in hell.

First, the script and the direction. 'Jalsa' is a classic example for how wrong things can go, if the director cannot decide (even before starting the movie) about the overall tone of his presentation. Is it supposed to be an upbeat entertainer or a thought provoking kind or even one that is a little skewed in its perspective? It is so very important getting this single fact straight and right, as the sudden tonal shifts have the devastating capability of taking the audience right out of the scene, or worse, making them respond to a scene in exactly opposite way to its expectation. Trivikram's earlier venture 'Atadu' got it just right where anything involving the hero, a professional killer, is calm, subdued and restrained - even during the comedy, sentiment and the action episodes. The tone speaks true of the character and therefore the emotional graph adjusts quite nicely to the twists and the turns. The same tonal compass seems to have gone completely astray in 'Jalsa', when a supposedly grounded and clear-headed hero mouths off sermons for violence, against violence, for socialism and for opportunism, in successive scenes (and played in very over-the-top style), making it amply clear, that the one key ingredient that went sorely missing in the movie was, clarity. Nothing could serve as a better example than the farcical encounter episode in the forest. Coming right after a highly charged scene, where the hero reveals why he turned to the forest for survival, the encounter episode is played as a subdued comedy. It isn't clear what the director expects of the audience at the end of the scene - a comedic relief? a quiet introspection? or a cigarette break? Enough to say that it fails on all these counts. And the entire second half leap frogs from one tone to the next with scant regard to what happened just before. The movie would have worked well had it been a short skit collection, where it is announced beforehand in the disclaimer (together with the anti-smoking and anti-drinking messages), that each scene bears no responsibility to the one preceeding it or the one following it. Now that would have been interesting.

Next, the production. The producer needs to be rapped on the knuckles for letting the production run amuck. Richness in production has nothing to do with the number of extras in a scene, number of vehicles destroyed in an action episode, or lavishness in the set design when it never needs one. An example - the hero, searching for a goon, crashes his van into a building, rides up the stairs, and strikes up conversation with him. At the end of the conversation, a huge chandelier drops from the roof, replete with ear-splitting sound, electric sparks and fire. Just what purpose did the unwanted licentiousness serve the scene - crashing the van through the door, riding it upstairs, dropping a chandelier - is best left to the imagination of the director and the gullibility of the producer. A director needs to EARN every penney that is portrayed on the screen, and the producer needs to ACCOUNT FOR the same. Similarly, another sequence - the villain chases the hero with a sword, through a religious procession. Meanwhile, someone who is erecting a huge hoarding (the really big ones that are currently the rage in cities) standing on top of a scaffolding, hung high up in the air, notices this and with a huge cry, drops the hoarding. And so it comes down - the hoarding, the guard railings, the tug wires and the electrical wires , and the constant fixture - electric sparks and fire. To what extent that unnecessary expenditure translated to moving the story along - again - a director's free ride on the producer's dime. 'Jalsa' is a movie that wallows in excess, indulges in extravagance and celebrates wastefulness. That's a shame, considering the really sparkling dialogues and a sweet little story, that were dying to be heard buried underneath the rubble above.

Writing about the character of the movie in the title song, Sirivennela pens

gunDu soodi chaetikicchi danDagucchamanTe
gunTa tavvi paaraestaaDu

How prophetic!

More Ramblings on films
Jodha Akbar
There will be blood
Chrlie Wilson's War
No Country for Old Men
Om Shanti Om
Lions for Lambs
American Gangster
Michael Clayton
Happy Days
Chak De India!
The Bourne Ultimatum
The Simpsons Movie
The Grindhouse
Casino Royale
The Departed
Lage Raho Munnabhai
Superman Returns
The Da Vinci Code
Sri Ramadasu
Rang De Basanti (Hindi)
Jai Chiranjeeva!
Munich (English)
Sarkar (Hindi)
Mangal Padey (Hindi)
Kaadhal (Tamil)
Anukokunda Oka Roju
Batman Begins (English)
Radha Gopalam
Mughal E Azam
Virumandi (Tamil)
Lakshya (Hindi)
Yuva (Hindi)
Kakha Kakha (Tamil)
Mr & Mrs Iyer
Nuvve Nuvve

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This article is written by Srinivas Kanchibhotla
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