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Judgementall Hai Kya review: Intriguing, confusing tale of suspense held up by Kangana, Rajkummar's gutsy performances

Release Date: 26 Jul 2019

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Sonal Pandya

The trippy film, directed by Prakash Kovelamudi, takes us into the everyday world of someone with mental health issues.

As a child, the wonderfully named Bobby Batliwala Grewal, witnesses more than she should. Even after the tragic deaths of her parents, she can't escape the memory of her father's abuse towards her mother.

An adult Bobby (Kangana Ranaut) cuts out articles of domestic violence and murder and fashions origami birds out of them. Those incidents have scarred her forever and shaped how she views the world. Therefore she is cynical, caustic and mistrustful in her relationship with others.

Bobby resides in an old bungalow, owns a black cat named Panauti (misfortune) and is occasionally employed as a Hindi dubbing artiste for South Indian films like Rowdy Rani. When her new neighbours, a married couple named Reema (Amyra Dastur) and Keshav (Rajkummar Rao), move in, it's as if her paranoias come to life. She finds holes in their relationship and suspects that Keshav is out to murder his young wife.

Indeed, when Reema dies in a fire, Bobby vehemently protests and points a finger at Keshav, but her suspicions are dismissed by others as a delusion.

Judgementall Hai Kya, written by Kanika Dhillon, takes us into the everyday world of someone with mental health issues. For assaulting a movie producer, Bobby accepts a three-month stint in a mental asylum. Another doctor says she suffers from acute psychosis and her symptoms match the diagnosis. She hallucinates about cockroaches around her and they manifest into her life. We feel her distress as it all becomes too much to bear. But nobody believes her.

Years later, she runs into Keshav again in, frankly, unbelievable situations and then it becomes a 'he said, she said' recollection of past events. Whom are you going to believe? The spiralling Bobby or the suave Keshav, who, by all accounts, has got his life back together again after the tragedy that befell Reema.

Prakash Kovelamudi's film is trippy and intriguing but it is also confusing at most turns. The shifting viewpoints and sympathies will have you questioning the characters and their motives, but the film ends up just a little flat.

Dhillon's writing is ambitious and she has created a fantastical world for the characters to inhabit. But the second half has an abrupt tonal shift that takes a while to find its groove. There is also a staging of a modern version 2.0 of the Ramayana added, where Bobby believes herself to be Sita but one who steps out to find Ravan.

When Bobby takes on a new dubbing assignment, she imagines herself as that very character, leading to some laughs on screen. One might say she goes a bit too 'method' for the role, an accusation that might hit home for the actress. Rajkummar Rao's Keshav is an enigma to be uncovered. On the surface, he is a doting husband, but is he hiding something as Bobby suspects?

The lead stars throw themselves into their characters, warts and all. The supporting characters of Hussain Dalal as Bobby's sometime manager Varun, Amrita Puri as cousin Megha, and Lalit Behl as her uncle are cast well. Satish Kaushik and Brijendra Kala also leave a mark as the amusing police officers investigating Reema's death.

But the movie belongs to Ranaut and Rao who rise above the inconsistencies in story and script. Ranaut's Bobby is full of contradictions, but when she is in the middle of an 'episode', you can see her battle her inner demons. Keshav is a smooth talker, and the first-rate Rao plays along to give Ranaut's Bobby as good as she gives.

The superb cinematography by Pankaj Kumar bathes the actors in harsh lighting of red, blue and yellow. When tensions come to a head in the second half, so does the presentation. The editing, intentionally, feels jumpy and frenetic, just like the action on screen. Perhaps that could also be chalked up to the work by three different editors, Shweta Venkat Mathew, Prashanth Ramachandran, and Shieeba Seghal.

Judgementall Hai Kya creates some memorable characters, but doesn’t give them a substantial story to live in. The Prakash Kovelamudi film has great ambition but fails to execute it in a coherent manner.

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