Kangana Ranaut's Judgementall Hai Kya packs some punch, but not enough
Kangana Ranaut excels in this edge-of-the-seat psychological-drama (or dark comedy, possibly). While critics applaud the film for being different, they are not a fan of its less-than-perfect second half and a contrived climax.
Kangana Ranaut and Rajkummar Rao’s film Judgementall Hai Kya deals in extremes; swaying freely in and out of situations that baffle as much as they intrigue, according to film critics. In the film we see many interesting characters suffering from various psychological issues.
Mentally ill people are often grossly misrepresented in movies and shows. However, many critics agree Judgementall Hai Kya attempts to be at least somewhat realistic in its approach to presenting the experience of mental illness and does not demonise or negatively portray (without reason) those who have mental illnesses. But the film's contrived, melodramatic climax lets it down.
The Kangana Ranaut and Rajkummar Rao film released on Friday and there are quite a lot of spoilers ahead, so beware.
This quirky Kanika Dhillon-scripted drama takes the audience into nooks and crannies that Bollywood rarely explores. In Judgementall Hai Kya, Kangana Ranaut digs hungrily into the role of Bobby Grewal Batliwala, a young woman with unresolved childhood trauma, who has been diagnosed with acute psychosis. Most critics agree that in conveying her character's volatile emotional life, the actress gives one of her most compelling performances.
Kangana plays a dubbing artist, who exists on the fringes of the movie industry. Her character is half-Punjabi and half-Parsi, has a cat called Panauti and is scared of cockroaches – so much so that she sees, rather imagines, them everywhere. Bobby is prone to bouts of paranoia and hysterical outbursts; she hears voices in her head, and displays erratic behaviour.
Pretty soon her fantasies extend to include Keshav (played by actor Rajkummar Rao), a tenant who moves into the flat next door with his wife. Before you know it, Bobby is spying on the couple in their private moments, crashing their weekend getaway, and stalking Keshav in the dead of the night. Then someone is killed, and Keshav and Bobby are both suspects.
In our relatively progressive times, some critics argue that while Judgementall Hai Kya is a testament to the fact that onscreen treatment of mental illness has evolved over the years, and the tone, purpose and dynamic of films about mental health have slowly shifted; others hold that the film is melodramatic and plays into the stereotype of mental health patients.
It’s perhaps a stretch to call the Ekta Kapoor-production a feminist film, but most critics agree there’s a strong message that women are often disbelieved and silenced. While many films, have stuck to the sexist idea of the mad, wild woman, Judgementall Hai Kya attempts to show how women with mental illness are dismissed and disparaged for being hysterical.
Raja Sen wrote in Hindustan Times, "Judgementall Hai Kya, directed by Prakash Kovelamudi and written by Kanika Dhillon, looks like a slick, snappy comedy but there is so much more to this smart, significant satire. This is a film about gaslighting, the relentless psychological manipulation intended to discredit people in order to nullify their version of events. It is about insensitively and eagerly labelling a condition instead of offering empathy. It is about trying to ‘handle,’ not help."
However, many critics have said Judgementall Hai Kya is over the top, and some of its effects are overdone. The film moves to London in the second half, where Bobby is cast in a play, as a backup option for Sita, called Futuristic Ramayana – a feminist reading of the epic told from Sita’s point of view. Some critics found it implausible. Calling the film "overlong and overstretched," film critic and journalist Rajeev Masand wrote in his review on News18.com, "Judgementall Hai Kya hits the proverbial iceberg immediately after intermission. The story moves to London, barely held together by a coincidence that never feels convincing. Bobby and Keshav cross paths again, but at this point the script asks that you suspend not only disbelief but also even basic common sense."
If you haven't watched Judgementall Hai Kya yet, before you book your tickets, read on.
Saibal Chatterjee wrote in NDTV: “The plot oscillates between the average and the brilliant as it unfolds in a way that approximates the muddle in the mind of a wracked woman who goes head to head against a seemingly taciturn tenant of hers in the aftermath of a death foretold by the former. The smart writing and the spiffy directorial touches give the film its edge. The sharpness also stems from the consistent quality of the lead performances from Kangana Ranaut and Rajkummar Rao and the solid contributions of the supporting cast. However, one question remains: should problems of a psychiatric nature be made the basis of entertainment of the kind that this film proffers? The jury is out on that, but like much else in the film, this doubt never takes the form of full-blown scepticism. Eventually, the woman sought to be dismissed as 'mad' - she suffers from dissociative identity disorder caused by a traumatic childhood incident and her outings as a dubbing artist for C-grade genre flicks - gets the better of a world that is out to corner her and make her pay for her assertive deeds.”
Rajeev Masand in News 18: "The film’s second half is so weak, it makes you forget a lot of what you enjoyed in the first half. Which is a real shame because it’s shot and scored imaginatively, and makes a strong case for inclusion and empathy. Kangana Ranaut is solid, and Rajkummar Rao brings a real element of mystery to his character, never allowing us to feel like we’ve entirely figured the guy out. But the film falls way short of greatness on account of a muddled script that loses steam halfway. I’m going with two-and-a-half out of five for Judgementall Hai Kya. While you admire the attempt at originality, you can’t help feeling frustrated at just how it all comes apart in the end."
Raja Sen in Hindustan Times: "Judgementall Hai Kya loses whizz in the final stretch, trying hard to keep audiences guessing even when the climax is apparent, and the makers could instead have concentrated on subtext. The investigative epiphanies, also, feel too simplistic compared to the messaging of the narrative and the film’s overall intelligence. I remain smitten, for instance, by the way they used the 1972 song Duniya Mein Logon Ko with such double-edged lyrical precision."
Namrata Joshi wrote in the Hindu: “The one big issue with most Indian thrillers, mysteries and horror films is the urgency to provide neat closures, than letting things remain tantalisingly unexplained. The curse of the explicatory works against Judgementall Hai Kya as well. But then it is never quite clear what the film wants to be. A psychological thriller? A black comedy? What could have otherwise been a great thing about Judgementall... is its refusal to get boxed in, which also proves to be its undoing. It ends up trying to be a lot more than what it is and somewhere falls between the many stools it wants to stretch itself on.”