Jagga Jasoos (जग्गा जासूस)

Encyclopedia Brown and the international arms dealer

H ere’s a coup: say you have a genre, an entire category or studio of movies where people constantly sing for no particular reason. Occasionally, you’ll need a reason for the incessant crooning, no?  How about this – invent a character who has to sing to avoid stuttering. Genius. Bollywood; you magnificent bastard, you’ve done it again. Enter l’il Jagga, a dorky orphan who never speaks. Or didn’t until challenged to sing his feelings by future caretaker, random stranger, and clear fabrication, Tutti Futti (Saswata Chatterjee). Yes, “Tutti Futti.”  I can only guess the adoption requirements in India are slightly more lax than in the United States:

“Who are you?”
Boris Badenov. Can I adopt a child?”
“Sure, they’re all in back. Knock yourself out.”

Tutti happens to be an undercover reporter exploring illegal international arms dealing. At this moment, he is (I gather) taking some time from chasing down the Russian Mafia or whatever to raise a child chosen at random. Tutti encourages Jagga to style his hair after either Bob’s Big Boy or Astro Boy (can’t tell exactly which), but it works so that we don’t mistake the bespectacled child for an Indian Harry Potter. The initial impression I got of wizardly Jagga was completely off, however, as it turns out Jagga is much more Encyclopedia Brown than Lavender Brown.  The gumshoe-in’ comes in handy later on, when “teen” Jagga (Ranbir Kapoor) is still in school at age 34 – oh, was he supposed to be 18? HAHAHA!  Oh, you guys.  What cards.  In a flashback, we see how Tutti has instilled a detective-like curiosity in the child.   I’m sure such flourished when Tutti vanishes months later and parents by video tape from then on.  Don’t ask.

All of this is told as a play-within-a-play. We start with a stage and children all gathered round Miss Shruti (Katrina Kaif) to hear the tales of Jaggo-land. Some of the kids even have glasses and spiky hair prop masks to reinforce the well-established children’s tale within. This gets confusing when Shruti becomes part of the play in Act II. Wait a sec. Jagga is a real guy? And you know him? So who wrote the children’s book you’re acting out? And who wrote a set of comic books about smuggling, arms dealing, and murder for children? And then, if I’m understanding this correctly, you acted these books out on public stage in front of a large audience even though the dealer hasn’t been caught and Tutti is still undercover.

There’s just so much about Indian culture I really don’t get.

Dare I say this works? You may not believe it, but it does; I was heavily invested in getting Jagga to solve the mystery and find Tutti. Or at least I would have been had Jagga Jasoos stopped at three films. We’ve got a mystery, a romance, and a coming of age collection. I didn’t need a musical and an adventure to boot. Jagga Jasoos was a three star film at the 2 hour mark. 35 minutes later, it dropped to 2.5. Personally, I’d lose all the play overture/overview. While it adds a child-like feel to the character of Jagga, the subject matter is not child friendly and confuses the role of Shruti in the production. And, let’s face it: 34-years-old isn’t a good look for Encyclopedia Brown, especially if the look exists for the sole purpose of keeping the romance grade school.

Ignore the Darjeeling tea
This Hindi gumshoe’s on a spree
Encyclopedia Kapoor
Will save all of Darfur
After the case of the two-sided Rupee

Not Rated, 155 Minutes
D: Anurag Basu
W: Anurag Basu
Genre: Pick a genre, any genre
Type of person most likely to enjoy this film: People in need of 155 minutes of entertainment
Type of person least likely to enjoy this film: The easily distracted

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