No One Killed jessica
Director: Raj Kumar Gupta
Screenwriter: Raj Kumar Gupta
Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub
Runtime: 136 mins.
Australian release date: 9 March 2011
This year’s Indian Film Festival 2011 - Bollywood and Beyond - promises to “…bring a new sophistication in contemporary cinema; a hugely exciting seismic, cultural shift that must be shared,” according to the festival’s director, Mitu Bhowmick Lange. With over 30 films, 15 premieres and a swag of invited guests, including actors and filmmakers, there should be something for everyone.
The opening night film in Sydney is Raj Kumar Gupta’s No One Killed Jessica, starring Vidya Balan, Rani Mukerji and Myra Karn - both Raj Kumar Gupta and Vidya Balan are guests of the festival. The film was inspired by the tragic story of Jessica Lall (Myra Karn), a young woman who was shot in front of 300 socialites at a New Delhi nightclub in 1999, when she refused to serve a drink to the son of an influential politician, Manish Bharadwaj (Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub).
Justice was swept away during the subsequent court case as the accused walked free. As Mumbai is seen as a place influenced by money, Delhi is a place where power rules. The long legal battle that followed gripped the nation and became front page news. People took to the streets demonstrating against the authorities, who were made to finally ‘fess up’ to the corruption which prevailed in political circles. It was a decade long saga fought by a number of journalists and particularly Jessica’s sister, Sabrina (Vidya Balan).
Gupta’s script sticks pretty closely to the actual events, although he uses Rani Mukerji, one of India’s most popular actresses, to represent a number of journalists who were covering the case. Meera Gaity (Mukerji) is a liberated woman who is both foul-mouthed and very opinionated, a refreshing change to the usual portrayal of Indian women on screen. The interesting thing is that most of Meera’s expletives in English are bleeped. To be honest, it makes you more aware of the profanities.
From the full-on opening credits the film moves along at a rapid pace with flashbacks which help the story unfold. No One Killed Jessica is a riveting drama which will be of great interest to an Indian audience familiar with the story and fascinating for those who know nothing about the case.
This year the festival showcases some of the best Hindi films from last year. There are a number of repeat screenings of titles that have already had releases in Australia, but it gives you the chance to catch up on those you have missed. I thoroughly recommend that you take the opportunity to catch-up with films like My Name Is Khan starring the Indian pin-up idol, Shah Rukh Khan, and Kabul Express, starring John Abraham, who is eye-candy for everyone! There is also a Vidya Balan retrospective. She is regarded as an actress who represents the changing face of women in Hindi films. This is an industry that is prolific and a must-see festival, especially if you have not experience Bollywood movies before.