In Anurag Basu’s “Jagga Jasoos”, the detective likes to sing. In the making for more than three years, the film is a rousing musical that pays tribute to Tintin and Feluda, and combines Disney’s musical tradition with a whimsical style reminiscent of Wes Anderson’s work.
Jagga is a Tintin lookalike, with the signature quiff and wide-eyed stare that are the Belgian sleuth’s distinguishing features. He is a melancholy child, brought up in a hospital after a nurse finds him abandoned. One day, a friendly stranger who calls himself Tutti Futti (Saswata Chatterjee) appears out of nowhere and changes the orphan’s life. He adopts Jagga and takes the boy to Ukhrul in the northeastern state of Manipur. But just as suddenly as he came, Tutti Futti (Hindi slang for broken) disappears, leaving Jagga in a boarding school where he looks old enough to teach, surrounded by pre-pubescent boys.
Jagga grows up fancying himself a sleuth and solves many a case in his small town, but never forgets Tutti Futti and still pines for him years after his disappearance. With the help of intrepid journalist Shruti (Katrina Kaif), he sets out to find out what happened to his foster father and the latter’s mysterious connection to an international arms syndicate.
The frames in “Jagga Jasoos” (shot by Ravi K Chandran) are rich and varied, making the film a visual delight. Basu treats this as a fairy tale – news anchors sing out the news, lemurs and giraffes populate the landscape, and most of the dialogue is in song.
But at 160-minutes, “Jagga Jasoos” overstays its welcome. The quirky characters and the slapstick comedy are funny only for so long, and when that sheen wears off, the film’s wafer-thin plot is exposed and no amount of good lighting and exotic locations can hide its shortcomings.
Towards the end of the film, the director seems to realise this fact, and wraps up his climax haphazardly, leaving hardly any time for explanations. Thankfully for him, his leading man seems to have more conviction than the story he’s telling. Ranbir Kapoor plays Jagga with pitch perfection, going from a stammering teenager to an adoring son and a valiant detective who will stop at nothing to find the man who means the most to him. Kapoor has very few lines, but he doesn’t need them – he works with his facial expressions and body language, changing them at will to suit the scene.
Just as in “Barfi!”, his earlier collaboration with Basu, Kapoor owns the film by a mile. Saswata Chatterjee comes a close second, playing the character with warmth and affection. Kaif as the bumbling sidekick is adequately bright-eyed and bubbly – the perfect foil for Jagga.
For all its positives, the sum of the parts is unable to redeem the whole. There are moments in the film that are wonderful, but when you put it all together, “Jagga Jasoos” doesn’t seem as rich and colourful as it appears to be.