Bobby Bataliwala Grewal (Kangana Ranaut) is quirky because of the distressing experience of having seen her parents die when she was a child.
Cast: Kangana Ranaut, Rajkummar Rao, Amyra Dastur, Amrita Puri
Director: Prakash Kovelamudi
Women in mainstream films in India may have got ample opportunities many times to hog nearly as much of the screen time as the main protagonists, but rarely has any actress been placed in a role that she inhabits with such earnest gusto that everything else pales in the film. In her new film, Judgementall Hai Kya, Kangana Ranaut — who has been in the news almost every day, that too, for all the wrong reasons — comes up with a bravura performance in a self-serious character that is bereft of any extra filigree or even intelligent dialogue to ensure smart one-liners for engaging thrills. She plays an on-the-edge young girl, whose childhood trauma of having seen her parents fight and die right before her eyes, leaves an indelible mark on her psyche in the form of “acute psychosis”.
But director Prakash Kovelamudi’s Hindi debut Judgementall Hai Kya has other bright spots too — an unusual two-hour long film with a fast and breezy narrative — it is immensely watchable because of its rather unfamiliar storytelling that turns a thriller more into guts, blood and chase fare. Alternating between the framer and the framed narrative mostly, it keeps its audiences guessing one moment only to leave them flummoxed in the next minute by the intriguing developments that don’t seem to end.
Bobby Bataliwala Grewal (Kangana Ranaut) is quirky because of the distressing experience of having seen her parents die when she was a child. She ekes out a living by being a dubbing artist — she also aspires to be a film actor someday. Just that her erratic temperament is a hindrance in the way of her ambition. Bobby also hates men and any newspaper reports of a man abusing his wife or any woman results in her neatly cutting the broadsheet story into neatly designed origami she creates. She hits the ceiling every time her boyfriend Varun (Hussain Dalal), who is as much fascinated and hung up on her as much as he is obsessed with sex, mentions the word “marriage” and fobs him off with inane excuses. Not just about the so-called usual and ordinary things of the day-to-day world, but the unexplained state of her disturbed mind that makes her come up with the weirdest justifications for saying or doing the most unconventional things that probably only she can comprehend, remains unfathomable to everyone around.
When a married couple, Keshav (Rajkummar Rao) and Reema (Amyra Dastur), who seem to be madly in love, move into her apartment on the insistence of her grandfather, she cannot hold herself back from sneaking into their privacy. Keeping track of Keshav’s whereabouts, she gets obsessively smitten by them and spies on them abashedly. When she concludes that there is something missing between them, she concludes that all is not hunky dory between them. As a fire breaks out one day, leaving Reema engulfed in the flames, Bobby is determined to get to the bottom of the mishap, and tries hard to convince the cops (Satish Kaushik, Brajendra Kala) that it is indeed Keshav behind the sudden “accident”. After being the key suspect, Keshav is let off due to a lack of any concrete evidence. On his producing proof that includes photographs, the police are also convinced that Bobby is suffering from a “mental illness”.
As Bobby shifts to London two years later, she starts living with her cousin Megha (Amrita Puri), and to her shock, finds out that her husband is none other than Keshav who now calls himself Keshav Shravan. Obviously, she begins to suspect him yet again.
And then begins a clash of the two all out to outdo each other in a game of hunting to prove who is right and who the real perpetrator of the crime is.
Megha, who is in an advanced stage of pregnancy, introduces Bobby to her team of theatre actors who have been rehearsing for the stage production of the play Ramayan in a new modern version of the epic. When director (Jimmy Shergill) asks Bobby to be the standby for the lead actress playing Sita, she declines.
Gradually, Kovelamudi and the story screenplay and writer Kanika Dhillon turn the film into a modern interpretation of the Ravana and Sita story with their role reversals. Taking centrestage as the new Sita who would not tolerate any violence against her or any woman, Bobby demonstrates the inner strength of a woman and epitomises the spirit of a wronged woman who wouldn’t take it on the chin. In fact, given a choice, she could give it back with all her might.
There are issues that hinder your investment into the flow a couple of times during the climax as also when you see her going about her life in a mundane world. That she turns into a marvel of a slow-building volcano and creates atmospheric tension that could explode is not what you would expect of her. Capable of packing a much more visceral punch as a victim, she hits back, stumping anyone who so much as comes anywhere near her. But at times, chance and coincidences mar the effect of a smooth ride.
Many among the viewers would also not be clear about the mental illnesses that have invariably been made fun of in our films. Deriding and calling derogatory names for any aberration or the slightest oft-kilter behaviour is very common in a land where insensitive and snide remarks are made callously. Words like “psycho”, “mental” and “paagal”, are often thrown at men and women for any kind of unconventional conduct. This film too, whose original title Mental Hai Kya was changed to Judgementall Hai Kya when a petition was filed against it, will only add more harm to the already unbending preconceived minds of the multitude.
If only an effort to explain the complexities could have made things better.
Although commendably relatable, there are moments when you feel it gets too familiar, but thankfully, Kovelamudi hasn’t stuck to a fixed genre that this movie could fall under. It interchanges between some elements of murder mystery and descends quickly towards an empowering tale thoroughly grounded in humanism in a dark comedy. Thus, it is earnest, thrilling, and buoyed by charismatic performances, both by Ranaut and Rao, and succeeds in holding your interest throughout. Rao lets you into his mind and just when you think you know him, he adds another layer to his characterisation. There are sequences that propel this unique take on the revenge thriller too, but overall what matter are its gripping performances by its leads, Kangana and Rao, and the rest of the cast too!