To put it bluntly, Jai Gangaajal isn't half the film that Gangaajal was. And that isn't attributable merely to the uneasy transition from Ajay Devgn to Priyanka Chopra.
Twelve years have elapsed since Prakash Jha delivered his take on the infamous Bhagalpur blindings and probed the limits of police excesses. That tale had a sense of urgency, which gave it palpable traction.
Today, Jai Gangaajal can only come across as a hackneyed cop drama in which an upright woman in uniform takes on not only a powerful politician but also an entire system that is loaded against the weak and the dispossessed.
Jai Gangaajal isn't strictly a sequel because neither its characters nor its plot take off from where the previous film left. It does deal with the questions of public disillusionment with the law enforcement and judicial systems and the resultant threat of mob violence. Jai Gangaajal also goes beyond the issue of policing and straddles several other themes land acquisition, agrarian distress, political skulduggery and systemic corruption. As a result, the film seems at times to have chewed off more than it can digest.
The only real point of interest in Jai Gangaajal is the presence of Priyanka Chopra, who is of late flying high internationally. For her fans, this film is a chance to check out how good she is as an action star. To answer that question, Priyanka is at best passable in the guise of Superintendent of Police Abha Mathur, who is posted in lawless Bankipur.
The district is at the mercy of a four-time MLA Babloo Pandey (Manav Kaul), who is only interested in feathering his nest, and the newly appointed police chief has a job on her hands. Babloo has a younger brother named Dabloo Pandey (Ninad Kamat) who is desperate to acquire all the land in the area for a mega power project. But the local people are against selling their plots. However, they do not stand a chance against the strong-arm tactics of the two ruthless brothers, who have an ally in a corrupt cop Bhola Nath Singh (Prakash Jha).
The no-nonsense Abha Mathur proceeds to assert her presence in Bankipur, which puts her on a direct collision course not only with the politician, but also with elements in the police force.
One actor who is head and shoulders above the rest of the cast is Manav Kaul. But the character that he plays is reduced to a standard Bollywood villain who, at the slightest provocation, flies off the handle and spouts angry lines of little import. Prakash Jha gives himself a great deal to do as an actor. He manages to stay on top of the character of the scheming policeman who has a change of heart when one of his many indiscretions boomerangs on him.
Jai Gangaajal has its moments, but these are too few and far between to dispel the impression that all the drama that the film unleashes is an exercise in futility because none of it is remotely original. It seeks to attain epic proportions but only manages to be a disappointing misfire. Jai Gangaajal is only for Priyanka Chopra fans.
(All images sourced from official Facebook page)