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Jana Gana Mana, a Malayalam film, breaks new ground by being an openly political film without being preachy. It goes farther than any ideologically based political film, too.

Starring Prithviraj, Suraj Venjaramoodu, Mamta Mohandas and Ilavarasu and directed by Dijo Jose Antony, Jana Gana Mana talks about people-centric politics without being preachy.

In the backdrop of the Rohith Vemula suicide, Jana Gana Mana talks about a student who is pushed to the brink when support is denied to him. The film talks about the rape and murder of a woman faculty and the suspects being killed in a fake encounter.

Starting with Nirbhaya, we have been seeing a clamour for summary justice being meted out to perpetrators of heinous crimes. Three years ago, in Shamsabad in Telangana, after the rape of a professional, women’s groups protested outside the concerned police station demanding the arrested be killed. Not long after, some of the accused were indeed killed in a police encounter.

Jana Gana Mana intertwines the two incidents and tells a compelling story. It portrays a political party and its leader gaining political capital using those incidents.

In the backdrop of the Rohith Vemula suicide, Jana Gana Mana talks about a student who is pushed to the brink when support is denied to him. The film talks about the rape and murder of a woman faculty and the suspects being killed in a fake encounter.   

This is not the first time films have dealt with such themes based on real life incidents and how politicians make use of them. But what’s new in Jana Gana Mana is how the information put in the public domain is also orchestrated politically for political gain. What people get to know and decide benefits someone, the movie shows. In Jana Gana Mana, people’s moods, opinions and thoughts are influenced, actually carefully manipulated, by specific forces.

Jana Gana Mana does border on the preachy, in the sense that the explainer comes in the form of the hero speaking to the film’s viewers through the camera. Yet, it only skirts the preaching ground and avoids entering it by having believable characters and natural situations.

Jana Gana Mana starts with Prithviraj getting sentenced by the court. Then the movie talks about the murder of a central university professor, Saba Mariyam (Mamta Mohandas) and the police investigation that follows. The suspects are bumped off in an encounter.

At the end of the first half, Prithviraj reappears as a gray haired lawyer. Aravind, the lawyer he plays, brings out the truth and explains what really happened.

The film shows how media often refuses to go beyond the apparent and truly find out what happened. When the judge says he can see if someone is guilty by just looking at that person, it brings out the subtle racial/social profiling that happens in our society.

In the name of public opinion, fascistic tendencies unfold. The film stresses on how despite technological advances and information overload, powerful people decide what people should know. When objectivity and unbiased coverage is rare, the film focuses on how narratives are orchestrated. The film asks its viewers to use their reason to understand what is happening around them.

The film shows how media often refuses to go beyond the apparent and truly find out what happened. When the judge says he can see if someone is guilty by just looking at that person, it brings out the subtle racial/social profiling that happens in our society. 

The first half of the movie talks about the sexual abuse of Saba and her murder. The second half is about how Aravind attempts to show that what was narrated never happened. The character that integrates these two versions is ACP Sajjan Kumar played by Venjaramoodu.

There are some disconnects that are jarring, however. The first half is about Mamta Mohandas, her mother and Venjaramoodu as well as Ilavarasu who plays the father of a student. The second half is about Prithviraj whose motives are not clear. Jana Gana Mana promises a sequel in which this will be explained apparently. As a film, Jana Gana Mana slips here. It’s not clear if this had been thought out before in keeping with the sequel trend such as KGF or if the scope of the story was not anticipated beforehand.

One must applaud the censors in Thiruvananthapuram for giving enough leeway to Jana Gana Mana. A character boldly says currency notes can be made invalid and votes can be prevented from being cast if people like him want it.

Without freedom of expression, it would be impossible to build a society that thinks critically.


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