(Originally published in Huffington Post India)
The national-antinational debate has hijacked the nation’s imagination for months now. In the age of internet trolls where the blatant display of hooliganism to uphold one’s version of nationalism has become a norm, one often becomes nostalgic about those days of blissful ignorance when sedition was a little-known and used term. These days even having Facebook friends from across the border puts you under the scanner.
In such an environment, Jolly LLB 2 seems to be harping on our last hope in democracy, i.e. a fair and effective judiciary. But there are a lot of issues and incidents depicted in the film that is not only bold and new but also quite thought-provoking. What is most interesting about the film is that the perpetrator is not somebody who comes from across the border, but somebody who is a part of the system. Jolly LLB 2 is not a simplistic feel-good film where everything is resolved in the end.
The perpetrator is not somebody who comes from across the border, but somebody who is a part of the system.
Jolly LLB 2 is not the story of an Islamist terrorist who has killed innocent people in the name of religion. Instead, this is the story of a corrupt upper-class Hindu police officer who has falsely indicted an innocent Muslim and killed him in cold blood for a promotion. The identity markers are important because we live in the times when people are often branded suspects and denied a visa for such things as national and religious identity. Yes, of course, there is a Kashmir angle to it, but this time the crime happens in the heart of the nation state in which the system seems to be systematically involved. This is the inconvenient truth that the film deals with.
I would like to congratulate Subhash Kapoor and his entire team for showing the courage to make a film of this kind. The film opens a space for debate and dialogue. It undercuts the old adage “Everything is fair in love and war” and calls for a more nuanced and detailed discussion on what is right and what is not. The enemy figure is not always the terrorist who comes from across the border or belongs to a particular religion, nationality or background. And, the source of the threat is not always a foreign element but it also comes from people who exploit their power and position within the country. Every time a terrorist attack happens or a suspect is arrested, we start looking for links to Kashmir or Pakistan, or try to find clues in his religious affiliation. It is a comfortable and convenient narrative that we have gotten used to. There has been absolutely no film in the history of Bollywood which has ever tried to challenge this construct. In fact, they often seem to play by the stereotype. But this film is not merely a mirror which reflects society but also a lamp which illuminates how things should be.
This film is not merely a mirror which reflects society but also a lamp which illuminates how things should be.
While there have been many movies which try to highlight the faults in the system and depict solutions, what Jolly LLB 2 does differently is keeping it realistic by refusing to resolve the issues artificially. There is more than one thing that the film does right. Jolly LLB 2 is one of those very few Bollywood films which does not resort to simple categories of good and bad (Jagdishwar Mishra as the protagonist is responsible for an innocent woman’s suicide and Annu Kapoor is a money-minded but extremely logical and a far better lawyer than Jolly). If Inspector Suryaveer Singh is brought to justice, it is also mentioned in the film that he is a product of a system which allows, encourages and even nurtures such corrupt and anti-national practices. And this is the case from Jammu & Kashmir to Lucknow. However, it is unfortunate that the film stops there. After all, it is easy to dispense with one Suryaveer Singh or segregate one BSF jawan and call him mentally unstable and brand them as anomalies.