No longer do Hindi films need to be simply entertaining. They need to be hard-hitting and impactful. Social films tend to do well at the box office and with audiences as well simply because they not only create awareness but also tend to strike a chord with viewers. No One Killed Jessica is one such film. In 1999, model-bartender Jessica Lall was brutally shot dead by a politicians son after she refused to serve him a drink. Her murder trial was initially bought to a close but after much media and public resentment was reopened and finally, after many years of fighting, Jessica Lall received justice. Based on the above premise, No One Killed Jessica follows the trials and tribulations of Sabrina Lall, Jessica’s sister, after she fought tooth and nail to bring justice to the forefront after she was denied justice. With key characters played by Vidya Balan and Rani Mukherjee, director Rajkumar Gupta, of Aamir fame, takes on the subject which garnered much interest from the minute the promos aired. Did the film live up to expectations?
Meera Gaity (Rani Mukherjee) narrates as she talks of a time in the late nineties when India was fixated with the Kargil war, which she incidentally was covering. During this period, an incident occurred in Delhi, a city where power takes all, she insists. One night, Jessica Lall (Myra Karn) is killed after she is murdered for refusing to serve Neil Bhoopalam (Vikram Jai Singh), a renowned politician’s son, a drink. Her sister Sabrina Lall (Vidya Balan) takes it upon herself to force the issue and insists on justice being served. Instead, the judicial system proves to be a failure and her trial is simply dismissed. Unable to understand how justice has been denied, ace reporter Meera Gaity takes it upon herself to create awareness and display how the judicial system simply failed in the case of Jessica Lall. Overnight she manages to create hype and public awareness which causes the government to reopen the trial in which Jessica is finally given the justice she receives.
As a film, No One Killed Jessica is path breaking. It calls on every Indian to take a stand on every issue that they feel strongly about. What works for the film is simply that every person in real life, who sat and looked away for whatever reason, is depicted correctly. As a director, Rajkumar Gupta shows innate understanding of the case and the underlying story. He shows Delhi and its people like never before as they stand up and revolt against the judicial system and the government. It is because of his clear knowledge in the subject, that the film makes such a powerful impact on its users. Gupta brings the problems in the country, corruption, power and sheer ignorance to the forefront without throwing it in the faces of the audience. In fact you are almost enlightened by what you are being told and determined to change the way in which things work. You sit and question, how much more? How many more times? It could have been me, my daughter, my sister. And through this empathy you are immediately sucked in. What doesn’t work for the film is nonstop changing pace. While in some scenes, it is incredibly quick, other times, it slows down to yawning pace which stops the flow.
Needless to say, the film is all about the two lead actresses who jut out beyond phenomenal performances. It would be unfair to say who steals the show, but by 0.001, it has to be Rani Mukherji. While many have called her nonstop cussing and foul language is over the top, it is her dirty mouth that keeps you glued and entertained. Her fire and arrogance as Meera is incredibly outstanding as well as award winning. Not for a minute does she lose the passion with which she plays Meera Gaity, the foul-mouthed reporter who simply wants justice to be served. Vidya Balan plays her role with ease; sometimes even underplayed. Her enactment of a sister who simply gives up is spot on and relatable. Not even for a minute does she lose her edge or understanding of the character. She slips into the soul and atma of Sabrina Lall with great nuance. Her climax break down scene is heart wrenching. The supporting cast do justice to their roles too as they play the “I can’t remember” socialite or the corrupt middle-class waiter.
Amit Trivedi’s music in fantastic and impactful. It matches the spirit of the film as it is used to perfection.
If you’re looking for path-breaking cinema, this is it. No One Killed Jessica is a story that needed to be told; and told now.