There are times when one chances upon Damini, Kanoon or Waqt being broadcast on a TV channel or pops in the DVD or VCD of a movie like Yudh, Andha Kanoon or Shahenshah, and notes with amusement, the highly farcical nature of the proceedings in a courtroom. You have the crusading hero who prefixes every argument with flaring nostrils and an impassioned plea of Milord (or Milaaaawwwrrrd depending on who the hero is) or berates the court for making him stand up date after date, a sneering defense lawyer who only exists to object to everything in the most ham-handed way possible. And not to forget the extremely grumpy looking judge who looks like he would rather be home taking a nap, rather than watching the hammy proceedings in front of him.
Being subjected to the above would drive any aspiring lawyer to despair and most found solace in cinematic gems like Judgment at Nuremberg, Anatomy of a Murder, The Verdict, …And Justice For All (Equally hammy, but still a gem) and To Kill A Mockingbird. While the more commercial John Grisham adaptations also proved a compelling watch without insulting your intelligence.
Then came along Jolly LLB, a compelling tale of a small town lawyer trying to make it in Delhi, and in desperation, jumping into the deep end of the pool, and taking on the sharks of the legal kingdom, and coming out on top. So when a sequel was announced and Akshay Kumar was cast as the titular Jolly, edging out Arshad Warsi from the original, one wondered, what yarn might Subhash Kapoor weave here?
Jagdishwar Mishra urf Jolly (Akshay Kumar) is a struggling lawyer working as a legal assistant to one of his city’s senior most advocates, Rizvi Saab (Ram Gopal Bajaj), and in his craze to create his own identity inadvertently stumbles upon a plot involving a corrupt encounter specialist Suryaveer Singh (Kumud Mishra), a dead alleged terrorist Iqbal (Manav Kaul) and his unfortunate wife Hina (Sayani Gupta). Leaning upon his feisty wife Pushpa (Huma Qureshi) for support, Jolly decides to fight for justice for Iqbal and Hina, and ends up taking on Lucknow’s most powerful and shrewd lawyer, Mathur (Annu Kapoor), under the nose of the long suffering judge Tripathi (Saurabh Shukla reprising his role from the original).
The trouble with Bollywood is, the minute a huge star signs up for a project, no matter how small it may be in spirit, the maker ends up giving in to temptation to go big and Jolly LLB 2 is no exception. Yes, the movie does have its moments, and some extremely memorable lines, one of which is so rib-ticklingly funny and yet so punchy that Annu Kapoor lampshades the moment by asking his assistant to note it down for future use. Sadly though, the writing is extremely uninspired here and absolutely pales in comparison to the original, a departure from its roots, one might point out. The first half is mind-numbingly dull to sit through, in spite of a few droll moments, and the 2nd half is enjoyable in parts, and excruciatingly melodramatic the rest of the time, causing one to cringe at the cloying sentimentality of certain sequences, the only highlight being the utterly bizarre and laugh out loud worthy moment when both the defense lawyer and the judge in a fit of rage undertake a dharna in the courtroom.
One thing that can’t be faulted here are the performances. Yes, Akshay Kumar’s mere presence may distract you from the fact that he’s the underdog (which Arshad Warsi pulled off perfectly), but the sheer earnestness of his performance makes up for the preachiness that his character adopts through most of the 2nd half. Annu Kapoor as always turns up his performance to 11, and in some scenes will even remind the audience of his infamous “Sir, iss cheez ke oopar nahi bolne ka” outburst in a reality show, years ago. But the real star of the movie is Saurabh Shukla, who reprises his role as the easily exasperated, yet good humoured and fair-spirited judge. But even his character suffers from some flanderization as the director tries really hard to squeeze out laughs from every minute he’s on screen, which is an absolute pity.
The supporting cast too pitch in for the most, Huma Qureshi putting in a spirited performance for a role that just cried out for more screentime and Sayani Gupta who is a talent to watch out for. Bringing up the rear are veterans like VM Badola, Ram Gopal Bajaj, Manav Kaul and Vinod Nagpal, alongside upcoming talents like Inaam-Ul-Haq and Rajiv Gupta and an absolutely fine performance by newcomer, Sunil Kumar Palwal as the Kashmiri cop.
To sum it up, Jolly LLB 2 is a disappointment, especially since it voices society’s concern over topics like fake encounters and religious polarization, and manages to give it a refreshing twist, but is let down by highly uninspired writing and direction.