Jalsa, an Amazon original movie, is sluggish to be sure, but it’s far from meaningless. Balan plays news anchor Maya Menon, who believes herself on her ethics and boldness, in the morals vs. self-preservation story. Ruksana, played by Shah, is a maid who cooks for the journalist and looks after kid Ayush (Surya Kasibhatla, a ten-year-old child actor with cerebral palsy and one of the highlights of the film).
The picture focuses on a young couple enjoying a two-wheeler ride. The night comes to a horrible end. Maya drives over the teenage girl and rushes away on her way home from work in the small hours of the morning, which is hardly what one would expect of a concerned, “oh-so-ethical” journalist.
Ruksana’s only daughter is revealed to be the girl Maya left in a pool of blood. Maya chooses not to tell her cook the secret, despite the fact that the latter remains an important member of the household and a pillar of strength for Ayush and Maya’s mother (Rohini Hattangady).
Despite the film’s needless detours, Vidya Balan and Shefali Shah give everything they have to their parts, which keeps the movie on the boil. The study of truth and how it is sacrificed on the altar of self-interest and immense wealth does not receive the complete attention it deserves. Jalsa’s perspective is anything but didactic, but the film examines human faults and makes a few valid observations.
The movie crams far too much into its two-hour running time. Morality, journalistic ethics, police corruption, the social divide, the problems of being a single mother, the fight for work-life balance, and the aspects of privilege are all addressed in the screenplay by Prajwal Chandrashekhar and Suresh Triveni.
Some of the movie’s buttons aren’t pressed hard enough or don’t stay pressed long enough. As a result, there’s a noticeable and regular dilution of the film’s main point, which is the widening distance between Maya and Ruksana as a result of the latter’s refusal to come clean.
On the positive side, Triveni deserves praise for avoiding to fall to the allure of overt drama. Yes, Maya Menon has a few meltdowns, especially when Ruksana is around, but the sequences stay within the movie’s carefully calibrated emotional pitch because the actress portraying the part is keenly aware of where to line should be drawn.
The climax, which is based on a crisis triggered by an innocuous act, is particularly striking. It takes on sinister dimensions in light of what has happened between the journalist and her housemaid, as well as the latter’s strong attachment with the physically challenged youngster in her care. The concluding sequences, redolent with true emotion and beauty, are served out with astonishing restraint and efficacy, in line with the movie’s overall management.