To make people question some of their deeply-rooted biases, no amount of speeches or hurling of facts and proofs at them can pay off at times. A better way to go about it might be to first appeal to their biases, and slowly start chipping it away from within. Filmmaker Dijo Jose Antony and screenwriter Sharis Mohammed go by this maxim in the film Jana Gana Mana.
In quite an interesting set-up, at the interval point, they get the audience to cheer for encounter killings — which is unfortunately quite popular in our society too — only to spend the next half showing why that whole idea is wrong. But, at least in cinema, people would like the rug being pulled from beneath their feet, which is why many ended up cheering both for the idea and the dismantling of it.
At the centre of the narrative is a University in Karnataka. The charred body of Saba (Mamta Mohandas), an outspoken professor who stands up against the administration for various issues concerning the students, is found near the highway, leading to major student protests. In scenes reminiscent of the real world, the police beat up the protesting students brutally. The trust in the police is abysmally low among the students when Sajjan Kumar (Suraj Venjaramoodu) takes charge of the investigation in a seemingly purposeful manner.
Jana Gana Mana
Director: Dijo Jose Antony
Cast: Suraj Venjaramoodu, Prithviraj, Mamta Mohandas
After a not so great debut in Queen, filmmaker Dijo Jose Antony widens the scale of his ambition in his sophomore effort. The contemporary debates in the country, around the growth of far right politics, which survives on constant stirring of the communal pot and dissemination of hate propaganda, must certainly have been playing in the screenwriter's mind while writing the film.
But despite its right intent and partly interesting structure, the making is quite uneven. Much of the treatment is loud and over-dramatic, especially the court scenes in the latter half. While it meanders pointlessly in the initial campus scenes, too much is said in quite a few rushed sequences towards the end. Much of this has to do with the mystery around Prithviraj's character, who re-appears only at the interval point, after an introduction in the prologue. The script also banks on all the incessant talking that this character does, not only to convey its political ideas, but also to reveal the twists in the tale.
Yet for all its cinematic flaws, the film does not hold anything back as far as the politics that it wants to speak. It raises uncomfortable debates on how those who raise questions are branded and targeted, how the media sets narratives at the behest of the establishment, how it plays into the inherent biases of the common people, and how the politics of identity is used to divide people for votes.
Jana Gana Mana is currently running in theatres