Jana Gana Mana Malayalam Movie
Politics is at the heart of Dijo Jose Antony's Jana Gana Mana. At a key moment in the film, director Dijo appears as a teacher sharing a Gandhian view on politics. He writes on the blackboard, "The best politics is right action." It is a clarion call, a demand that students protest the sensational crime that occurred the other day in Karnataka. It is also as if the director is using the film as a platform to express his views.
The central event in the film reminds us of the rape and killing of a veterinarian in Hyderabad some years ago. In the movie, it springs an uproar on the campus where police officers beat up the students involved in the protest. The case of police brutality reminds us of the 2020 Jawaharlal Nehru University incident where masked men attacked the students as cops did not intervene. As with the real-life incident, masked men attack the students in the movie during their peaceful protest.
The makers of the film deny that it has anything to do with the current political scenario in India. In a way, you can argue that they are right about it as mentioned above are past events. But the movie is too contemporary and too in-your-face for us to dismiss it as a work of fiction.
A Malayalam movie would be a true-blue political film only if it discusses a party or two in Kerala. There are crooked politicians and dirty politics in Jana Gana Mana, but none of the characters represents a political party in the state. It is not about a political rivalry or a fight for power between two different party groups. Does it mean that it is not a political film? Not necessarily. It only makes the politics of the film applicable to a national audience.
At the heart of the story is an encounter killing of gang rape suspects. Now, it is only a plot element to take the main characters of the film into the courtroom. This is where the real action happens and the movie comes into its own. The first half of the film reflects the real-life events it borrows heavily from, and the second half explains those events.
It does not take a lot for a film like Jana Gana Mana to be preachy or message-heavy. You do not want a movie to use itself as a way of info dump that fails to enlighten the audience enough. Dijo's film is a bit too direct sometimes but seldom fails to engage the viewer.
The politics that the movie discusses will be familiar to viewers who read newspapers each day. For an avid reader of the newspaper, it is easy to see where the character of Prithviraj Sukumaran is going. If you are weak in current affairs or do not read the daily, however, you may question the intentions of the character. The other main actor here is Suraj Venjaramoodu who plays the lead investigator in the sensational case. The director uses the persona of the actors well here, besides doing interesting things with their characters.
Unlike what the poster or the trailer implies, Jana Gana Mana is not as much a confrontation between the characters of the two actors as, say, Driving License is. A lot of what you see in the film's trailer comes in the imminent sequel. The movie is more of a confrontation between misinformation, half-truth and truth. It also works as a deep dive into our collective consciousness.
Besides a solid screenplay, it is the acting that keeps the audience engrossed in the proceedings. Prithviraj shows great restraint initially before delivering one monologue after another about the status quo. The actor's strong skills in English and Malayalam make the monologues convincing. Suraj Venjaramoodu, meanwhile, has a less-showy role but does some wonderful things with it. I just like how Suraj underplays some key emotions in the movie, bringing different shades to his character. There are many other wonderful performances in the film, most notably from G. M. Sundar, Shari, Mamta Mohandas, and Vincy Aloshious.
The other notable aspect of the film is Jakes Bejoy's music. The beating heart of the film is the Jana Gana Mana song, which works as a title track.
Jana Gana Mana is not a perfect film, though. The movie appears borderline preachy at some points and could have used some more editing. At about 3 hours, it is a tad long. Some scenes repeat themselves while adding little information to what the audience already knows. The post-climax stretch serves as a teaser for Jana Gana Mana Part II, which makes little sense. I am eagerly awaiting the second part, though.