Mumbai’s Parallel Mothers:
The promo was intriguing, but unfortunately for Jalsa, it showed more or less what was worth watching in the film, because the full length of it was tedious– in spite of a fine cast and a reasonably provocative premise.
It is tough to write about the plot, without dropping spoilers, but it is to do with guilt, regret and possible redemption. Maya Menon (Vidya Balan) is a celebrity TV anchor—the kind whose face appears on hoardings in a standard arms-crossed pose; some effort is made to establish her personal background—she is divorced, lives with her mother (Rohini Hattangady) and differently abled son Ayush (Surya Kasibhatla). The household is managed by the cook-cum-housekeeper Ruksana (Shefali Shah). The class barriers have been considerably lowered by the friendship between the two women’s sons. Maya is having an office romance with Amar (Iqbal Khan), and maintains a cordial relationship with her ex-husband (Manav Kaul).
Then tragedy strikes, and Maya finds her life and career unraveling. Rohini George (Vidhatri Bandi), a young and ambitious trainee reporter wants to follow up the case that involves Maya, and surprisingly, for a woman new to the city, has an enviable network of sources.
Had the film been about the consequences of unintended actions, loyalty, sorrow and greed, it might have been emotionally affecting, but it inserts needless subplots and loses its grip on pace. There is also a bizarre reason why the relentlessly grim film is called Jalsa.
With their parts probably sounding good on paper, the two actresses get barely a scene or two to work with satisfactorily, because the telling of the story—one with immense potential—is so cursory, the viewer eventually detaches from it. Besides, there can be no satisfactory ending to it—either the wrong is legally punished, even though it was inadvertent; or forgiven, in which case the suffering of the victim is not taken into account. In real life one has seen money papers over all problems, and a parent would, perhaps, sacrifice the notion of justice or revenge for long term stability of the family; but Jalsa is not even cynical enough to consider the compromises life can force on the weak. It just seems like the film wants to say a lot, but expects the viewer to make sense of what is not even conveyed.
(This piece first appeared in seniorstoday.in on March 19, 2022)