IANS Review: ‘Jail’: A film with lofty ambitions that fails in its mission

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Film: Jail (Playing in theatres). Duration: 135 minutes.

Direction: Vasanthabalan. Cast: G.V. Prakash, Abarnathi, Nandan Ram, Pasanga Pandi, Radhika Sarathkumar and Ravi Mariya.

IANS Rating: **1/2

Director Vasanthabalan, who has delivered masterpieces such as ‘Veyil’ and ‘Angaadi Theru’, tries to showcase in ‘Jail’ the miserable lives that poor people living in slums, who play an active part in building a city, are forced to lead by a selfish and ungrateful society.

Rocky (Nandan Ram) and Karna (G.V. Prakash) are two friends living in Kaveri Nagar, the government’s biggest resettlement area 30km away from the city. Rocky sells drugs and Karna is his accomplice. Rocky’s biggest competitor in the business of selling drugs is Manik, who also lives in Kaveri Nagar, but has the backing of local politicians.

The three things that are common to the two gangs is that they both sell drugs, both live in Kaveri Nagar, and more importantly, both are operated by the area’s police inspector Perumal (played by Ravi Mariya), a corrupt and ruthless yet powerful man.

Rocky and Karna’s close friend, Kalai (Pasanga Pandi), returns to Kaveri Nagar, after serving time at a juvenile home. The innocent boy, who is good at studies, finds himself in a situation where he cannot pursue his education or find employment because he lives in Kaveri Nagar.

It is in these circumstances that one day a fight erupts between the two rival gangs over selling drugs. They land in the police station. Politicians bail Manik’s gang out, Rocky’s gang is let off by Perumal.

Before Perumal lets Rocky off, he gives him a secret task. Rocky accepts the task and goes missing for three days. When his friends find him finally on the fourth day, he is seen running for his life. Who is Rocky running from and why?

‘Jail’ gives you the answers.

The film intends to highlight how poor people living in slums are forced out of their homes under the resettlement schemes of the administration. It seeks to narrate how these people who have lived in cities are forced to move to places 30-40km away from the cities, thereby giving them very little scope to pursue their professions. It hopes to stress on how they are driven to take up a life of crime to survive and how they are then looked upon with suspicion.

These seem to be the noble intentions of the film. Sadly, these messages that the film intends to convey do not come across strongly. What finally comes across is just a story about the fight between two rival gangs that are into selling drugs and a corrupt police officer who stands to benefit from them.

Vasanthabalan literally tells us right at the beginning of the film that these problems exist because of unfair resettlement policies. Otherwise, the film fails to make you realise the import of the message.

Only Kalai’s character makes you feel sorry for those in the resettlement area, helping the film somewhat succeed in its mission. Otherwise, the entire film is just another gruesome crime story.

The film might not have succeeded in its mission, but that does not detract from the fantastic work put in by the actors.

G.V. Prakash as Karna is outstanding. It is evident that the man has put his heart and soul into the film. Some of the places that he seems to have been made to run are filled with filth. Not easy for any actor to work in. The fight sequences look real. In fact, you get the feeling that you are a resident of Kaveri Nagar and are seeing first hand the incidents happening there.

Both Nandan Ram and ‘Pasanga’ Pandi also deliver neat performances. Ravi Maria as the police inspector Perumal is just perfect. Abarnathi, who plays the heroine in the film, does a reasonably good job.

On the technical front, the film’s music works big time. Both its songs and its background score are neat and apt. In all, ‘Jail’ has a praiseworthy and noble intention, but sadly, it doesn’t succeed in its mission of communicating what it intends to convey.

20211210-121013

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