Lately, broaching a social issue has become a sure-shot way to enter international film festivals. While many manage to come out with riveting stories that get lapped up by critics and audience alike, others end up becoming pseudo art house cinema. However, when you have filmmaker like Nila Madhab Panda in the credits who gave us the fascinating I Am Kalam, you can rest assured you are in for a treat and Jalpari turns out to be just that.
Shreya (Lehar Khan) is a fearless, tomboyish and intelligent girl who is raised by her father Devendra (Parveen Dabbas) sans any gender bias and as equals with her brother Sam. However, she is in for a shift as she enters her father's small village in Haryana for the first time during her summer vacations. The village appears far removed from what she had in mind. There aren't too many girls to play around with, she makes friends with local gang of boys led by Ajithe (Harsh Mayar).
Her adventures don't cease and without anyone's knowledge she heads out to unravel the mystery of a witch who's been plaguing the village for years. Whether she comes out victorious or not follows through the rest of the plot.
Nila Madhab Panda surely knows how to infuse a very potent social issue in his films and present it in a light-hearted manner without turning it into a heavy or melodramatic film. In his previous film I Am Kalam too he addressed the issue of child labour and illiteracy while this time around in Jalpari he tackles female feticide. However Jalpari doesn't quite match up to the brilliance of his debut film. In the first half the film stretches for no reason testing the audience's patience. There's too much focus on unimportant sequences wasting ample screen time. But right when the film comes to its main plot mostly towards the second half, Nila starts rushing up with the proceeding and gives it a rushed end.
His strength however, lies in making his film very earthy and rooted. The way he captures the lives of the villagers is laudable. Almost every character fits the bill perfectly and acts well. He also shows great prowess in working with children and extract outstanding performance from them. His new find Lehar Khan appears very confident onscreen and does a swell job while the star of his debut film Harsh Mayar once again charms the audience as a Haryanvi bratty kid.
To sum it up, Jalpari doesn't quite match up the brilliance of I Am Kalam, but still remains an endearing watch.
Critic: Mansha Rastogi
(3 / 5) : Good