Star Cast: Amitabh Bachchan, Ankush Gedam, Akash Thosar, Rinku Rajguru & ensemble.
Director: Nagraj Manjule
What’s Good: Nagraj Manjule’s zest to use his voice and achieved medium to tell the stories of the have nots with authenticity, newness and a fresh approach. Amitabh Bachchan backing it all.
What’s Bad: A dip that the movie takes at the beginning of the second half, but the clever climax saves the day.
Loo Break: It’s a 3-hour long film. Use the interval for your nature’s call, because team Jhund will not let you take one.
Watch or Not?: Please do! Nagraj Manjule not just talks about a sport, the societal gaze, and the class divide, but also gives the genre a homage and fresh storytelling technique.
Available On: Theatres Near You!
Runtime: 178 Minutes
Jhund meaning ‘herd’ is about a group of slum dwellers who find a coach in an almost retired college professor Vijay (Amitabh Bachchan). He equips them and introduces them to soccer or football ( as Indians prefer). But like Vijay, is society ready to look at them with dignity and basic respect? Nagraj explores that.
Jhund Movie Review: Script Analysis
Sports dramas at large in Hindi cinema now are made with a formula, especially the ones that take the team abroad. You exactly know which ones. Nagraj Manjule acknowledges their existence and shapes a movie keeping them in mind. While a majority of the old ones focus on the inception and winning moment, Manjule shows you what exactly happens between that. And as you might have already guessed, this isn’t just a sports drama, but the filmmaker talking about several other issues and giving a voice to ones who don’t have it.
Written also by Nagraj, Jhund takes his gest to talk about the marginalised a step ahead. Set in Nagpur he creates a world, rather reflects one, that stands bang in the middle of duplexes, a prestigious college, and its manicured football ground. But no one really acknowledges or feels its existence. It’s a slum right in the centre and also has a ground but used by the privileged to throw their garbage. There is literally a scene showing a man throwing garbage across a wall in the ground of the slums, which has a Junk Dealer next to it and the children and teenagers of the slum living in it.
The children surrounded by filth, practically and metaphorically, are practising all sorts of evils for their age. Childhood is a myth and a hope for a better life is long dead. Giving rise to thieves, robbers, and even potential killers. The writing in an opening montage takes us through these gullys and their lives that are filled with variations of wrong things. They are so doomed that a man luring them with just 500 bucks is an achievement for them. Nagraj doesn’t use any vanilla techniques to sabotage the brutal landscape and the contrast it has with the world just across the thick wall.
Vijay finds them and polishes them to play. Looking at the sports aspect of the movie, the best thing is the blueprint, which focuses on the process to reach the ground than the final match. For the kids who thought they would die consuming the whitener, the fact that they would fly to a foreign country to play at World Cup is in itself a victory. What happens on the ground is secondary. And you have seen the latter part in many films. So the focus here is on the process mainly.
So the process is where Manjule uses his voice and takes a stand. He doesn’t shy away from talking about his thoughts on the politics of the land right now. A father and daughter running from door to door to make a single identity document, when their village has a “Digital India” poster. What use if not accessible! Or when a character says “censor ke kaaran chup baithna pad raha.” Or when a supposed idol in a makeshift temple is actually a Junk helmet. Or when a Muslim lady fights for her dignity and uses triple talaq to make the husband realise his mistake. There is a man who wipes his hand clean after shaking hands with the boys from the slum, for real. I love when filmmakers are bold, loud, and confident about their opinions and don’t be diplomatic. Nagraj Manjule is definitely one of them!
Special mention for a football match that plays in the first half for good 20 minutes. Yes, the filmmaker invests a big chunk of a 3-hour runtime for the one and only match in the entire film, bringing you to the edge of your seat. By then he has marinated you so much in the film that you are in the stadium cheering for the “Jhund”.
Jhund does take a dip at the beginning of the second half. The narrative shifts gaze from one slum to many and the base shakes a bit. What was till now compact, is suddenly wide and you aren’t ready for it. A court monologue also feels a bit underdone.
Jhund Movie Review: Star Performance
Amitabh Bachchan is one of the most experimental actors we have and the megastar proves his mettle yet again. He isn’t the only driving force and never does he try to be one. The megastar leaving his superstar image aside, takes the backseat when needed and becomes a backbone to the narrative. He lets Nagraj’s world shine more than him and that is his biggest and the best contribution. The way he is still evolving and doing characters that are more varied is how a real actor grows and he is definitely an inspiration to many.
Ankush Gedam is the second-best of them all. The actor has to play the leader of the Jhund and be opposite Big B many times. Call it Mr. Bachchan making him comfortable, or Gedam being brave, not for minute does he look intimidated. Even when he calls Big B Buddha. The actor goes through a complete character transformation and it all looks in his performances.
Akash Thosar gets a very weird cameo though. He appears to create conflicts and they get solved quite easily. Rinku Rajguru in a small yet impactful part proves she is progressing in her journey and becoming a stronger actor by each passing day.
Jhund Movie Review: Direction, Music
Nagraj Manjule’s world building is very strong. The filmmaker takes his sweet time in doing it. There is no rush. Just like Sairat, he manages to play with the visuals and this time adds colours. He almost makes the members of the Jhund look like aliens because the world is looking at them with that gaze. As mentioned, he is loud and clear, are you bold enough to digest his thoughts? That’s up to you.
What is also commendable is the little action in the movie. All of these players are in their early to late twenties, and when a fight breaks in a slum it cannot have professional punches. The film aces that thought and it all looks so much authentic that you are at no point alienated from the experience.
The visuals are stunning and keep you hooked throughout. DOP Sudhakar Reddy Yakkanti, Nagraj’s confidant (Sairat and Naal), uses a lot of handheld camera and long shots to show you the world. Drone shots show you the class divide visually. An airplane flying over the slum and the wall that reads something to the effect of “Climbing and trespassing from the wall is strictly prohibited” hits you hard because the camera has skillfully shown you the divide visually so far.
Ajay-Atul’s songs are peppy, fun, and intriguing. They add beats to this world that needs them the most. Especially the title track is a winner and how. Background score by Saket Kanetkar does the rest of the job. There is a whistle in the theme of the movie and it alerts you every single time, in a good way.
Jhund Movie Review: The Last Word
This is a film that wants your attention and once it has it, there is no looking back. Amitabh Bachchan is amazing, Nagraj Manjule is at his best and so is everything around them. You must go for this one.
Jhund releases on 04th March, 2022.
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Want some more recommendations? Read our Gangubai Kathiawadi Movie Review here.