Jana Gana Mana: A well-intended political drama
Cast: Prithviraj Sukumaran, Suraj Venjaramoodu, Vincy Aloshious, Mamta Mohandas
Directed by: Dijo Jose Anthony
“Burnt to death”, is how the headline of a popular daily read when Professor Saba Mariam (Mamta Mohandas) is suspiciously found dead one night. The headline catches national attention and leads to a public outcry. With police barging into the campus and beating up peacefully protesting students, things go out of control. To deal with the situation and help find the culprits of Saba’s murder, who was allegedly raped and burnt, ACP Sajjan Kumar (Suraj Venjaramoodu) takes charge. The film progresses as Sajjan investigates the case and books four local culprits who were involved with the murder. But things take a different turn of events with Aravind Swaminathan (Prithviraj Sukumaran) making an entrance. The captivating courtroom drama that follows raises several questions about the politics of religion, color, and caste. It makes us think about our perception o the truth and how we are manipulated by those in power. Dijo Jose Anthony seems to have a way of incorporating courtroom dramas in Malayalam movies. While his first film, Queen, had an intense courtroom drama that discussed the hypocritical gender politics of the society, Jana Gana Mana steps a notch higher and addresses even wider issues.
Though well intended, Jana Gana Mana has its weak moments. The first half of the film does test our patience for a while as we struggle to understand where all this is going. An average first half is saved by Prithviraj’s entry as Aravind Swaminathan and the dynamic courtroom scene. The questions he raises make us rethink our biases and perceptions about certain events. Rape happens every 15 minutes but we observe a public outcry in only certain cases. Why so? The media feeds us with sensationalism and manipulates our thinking with captivating and exaggerated headlines. The politics that Jana Gana Mana tries to discuss are something worth appreciating. In these unprecedented times, such storytelling is a bold move by the filmmakers.
The film definitely takes inspiration from some real-life incidents. Saba’s death seemed to be inspired by the Hyderabad gang-rape case and mentions of the tribal Madhu, who was beaten up for stealing food, are also made.
Prithviraj can be seen in one of the best performances in recent times. He definitely seemed to be enjoying and cherishing the stage he got. He brings his best out with Aravind Swaminathan. Suraj Venjaramood too excels as ACP Sajjan Kumar. Vincy Aloshious as Gowri too offers a performance worth remembering.
A noticeable drawback of Jana Gana Mana was how the film handled the languages. The characters switch abruptly between Kannada, Malayalam, and Tamil which ends up creating slight confusion for the audience.
The music of Jana Gana Mana done by Jakes Bejoy stands out and creates an adrenaline rush.
Hints about a possible sequel had already surfaced and the movie gives away major details about the sequel towards the end. Hopefully, in the sequel, we will get to see the backstory of Aravind Swaminathan, what happened to him and he ended up where he is today.
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