Jana Gana Mana Review: Prithviraj and Suraj Venjaramoodu outperform each other in this preachy but important film
Jana Gana Mana begins with a courtroom hearing where Prithviraj’s character is convicted. He is escorted by a group of policemen with medias hovering all around him. The film then cuts to the main plot where a body is found burnt near the Bengaluru highway. It is learnt that the dead is a college professor named Saba Mariyam (Mamta Mohandas), who is popular among the students in her university to raise voice against any sort of injustice. Her killing earns widespread media attention and a special police team is formed to investigate.
Assistant Commissioner Sajjan Kumar (Suraj Venjaramoodu) heads the investigation and he is quick to act. He seems like a man on a mission as he gives words to Saba’s family that the accused will be nabbed within 30 days. Sajjan, who appears to be an upright man-on-a-mission-cop connects the dots and nabs the four accused. At this film takes a problematic stand and it gets even worse when the audience in the theatre are seen cheering for it. The interval block gives a mixed feel about the politics of the film.
However, things get subverted in the latter half when Prithviraj’s Aravind Swaminathan enters the scene. He is once again introduced in a courtroom, this time as a lawyer who moves with the help of a walking stick. What follows is a fiery courtroom drama where Aravind Swaminathan unravels the real motive behind the crime and more importantly exposes the bigger picture.
It is in the latter half where the film gets to its real elements. Writer Sharis Mohammed and director Dijo Jose Antony try to incorporate several real-life incidents that have occurred in the country for the past few years to drive home the point of how politics of hate and discrimination work. Rohith Vemula’s suicide in Hyderabad university, Unnao rape case, JNU issues, Dadri lynching, the killing of Adivasi youth Madhu, custodial death of P Jayaraj and Bennicks and the encounter killings of rape accused in Hyderabad are some of the topics that the film touches upon, rather discreetly.
Jana Gana Mana is preachy, on the face film but it is important. It serves as a mirror to the current socio-political issues in the country. It is quite a daring attempt to make a film like this given the current political climate but the makers could have done away with squeezing in so many issues and thereby losing focus at many points.
Despite the minor shortcomings, the actors ensure that the film and its intentions stand tall. Prithviraj has delivered one of his finest performance as he uses his often-criticised over dramatisation to good effect. The second half of the film entirely belongs to Prithviraj as he goes on a never-ending monologue trip to ask several questions. Suraj Venjaramoodu in a diametrically opposite role brings out an astutely restrained act, which is imperative for his characterization. The actor looks and plays the part with so much conviction that it’s hard to read anything from his face. The ever-trustable Mamta Mohandas efficiently handles a crucial role with grace and poise. Among the plethora of supporting actors, Vincy Aloshious makes a lasting impression.
The final few minutes of Jana Gana Mana acts as a prelude to the second part. The stage is set up nicely by showing glimpses of Aravind Swaminathan’s past, his tussle with the political bigwigs and equation with Suraj Venjaramoodu’s Sajjan Kumar. If the first part is anything to go by, more questions will be raised and more the attention.