Jojo review: Exploring a character more deeply could have made this thriller a treat

Release Date: 09 Mar 2018 / Rated: U/A / 01hr 22min

Cinestaan Rating

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Roushni Sarkar

The film could have lingered more on the scary elements and offered a climax that is original.

Arghadeep Chatterjee’s directorial debut Jojo’s success lies in its shift between a horror film and a psychological thriller. However, the film could, perhaps, have lingered more on the scary elements and offered a climax that was original.

Jojo is definitely an unusual attempt for a newcomer director in Bengali cinema as despite the abundance of horror stories in Bengali literature, the genre has not been adequately explored by the film industry.

The twists from the beginning of the film, woven with a dramatic pace, set the mood of the film. The changes in the storyline also save the common motifs of the horror genre — the palatial haunted house, the clowns — from appearing clichéd.

Jojo attempts to be spine-chilling with consistency in pace, crafty camerawork and fitting performances by the protagonists.

The film begins with tension as the female protagonist Mrittika (Darshana Banik) receives repeated calls from a stranger. She is in love with Rahul (Satyam Bhattacharya) and shares every secret with her best friend Polo (Saayoni Ghosh). Polo is a little possessive about Mrittika and does not approve of Rahul.

The stranger warns Mrittika of a danger ahead as she goes out on a date with Rahul. While partying, it seems she has been drugged by Rahul. Having been advised by the stranger on the phone, Mrittika leaves the party. While driving, she runs over a passer-by. Mrittika tries to connect with the stranger, but in vain.

On Polo’s advice, Mrittika leaves the city and takes up the job of a part-time governess in Bilaspur. The next morning of her arrival, she is introduced to Jojo, the centre of the mystery in the film.

The character of Jojo invites strange occurrences and encounters with Mrittika in the mansion that prepares the audience for more jolts of horror. However, it seems that the climax takes place too early, before providing the audience with a satisfactory amount of the suspense quotient that could have taken it to the pinnacle of their experience.

The surprises come as the plot keeps shifting from a thriller to a horror story and then again to a psychological thriller; however, the content and a few parts of the treatment in the end drop the temperament of the film. The exposition of the thriller is skilfully connected to the twists in the beginning but the theme has been exhausted by numerous Hindi films such as Gupt (1997) and Darr (1993).

Mrittika’s fear and helplessness that Polo finds to be mere hallucinations add to the thrill and the dramatic elements of the film. Darshana Banik doesn’t seem to be an amateur in her first lead role; rather, she becomes the embodiment of her tense surroundings.

Anirban Bhattacharya, the male protagonist, puts in all his dedication and effort in his performance. He does not let go of the opportunity to play a dream role that many actors desire in their career and definitely sends a chill down the spine with his strange amiability.

Saayoni Ghosh adapts herself well into the character of a tomboyish and caring friend who neither believes in love nor in ghosts.

Arghadeep Chatterjee fares better in direction than in weaving an original plot. Cinematographer Amlan Saha deserves all the credit for creating and maintaining the dark ambience throughout the film. Also, a sense of alert in each frame makes the film a treat for the audience in a majority of the portions.

The background score in a horror film plays a crucial role. Nilanjan Ghosh has done a successful job in this regard, with ample preludes and apt use of unusual instruments such as conch shells to create effects. The two songs —  'Mukhosh', rendered by Ujjaini Mukherjee and 'Biroti' sung, composed and written by Ronnie, not only fit well into the sequences, but also stand out as unique compositions.

Art director Anandya Adhya contributes a lot in bringing out the essence of the film with his thoughtful set decoration in the haunted house.

Had the absurdity surrounding the character of Jojo been explored more, it would not hamper the storyline of the film. Perhaps, a bit more grey shades in the character of the criminal, instead of focusing on revealing the truth behind every twist, could have made the plot of the film more closely knit.