It’s been a while since we saw something truly different in the crowded online space. The film that ran for slightly longer than 2 hours was a refreshing change from the kind of content that we had seen a lot of recently, and there was hardly a moment when we thought that we could predict what was going to happen. That is a rare feat for any piece of content today. But despite this quality, “Jalsa” is not a film meant to shock the audience. It is a film designed to make the person think, and it does so without asking questions. As the events of the film unfold, the viewer can’t help feeling- ‘What is the value of truth?’
‘Jalsa’ Plot Summary – What Is The Film About?
The movie is the story of two women: Maya Menon, a successful journalist played by Vidya Balan, and her cook, Rukhsana, played by Shefali Shah. Maya lives with her mother and her son, who is physically challenged. He is taken care of by Rukhsana and is very attached to her. She has a son and a daughter of her own. While the son is close to Maya’s son’s age, the daughter is a teenager. “Jalsa” shows Maya closing a successful interview and going home after a celebratory drink with her boss. On her way, she accidentally hits a girl who came in front of her car out of nowhere. She stops for a second, debating whether to help the girl or not, but ultimately decides to keep driving. We know the girl to be Rukhsana’s daughter.
The next day, Rukhsana reaches the hospital and is in obvious distress over the events of the night. She was under the impression that her daughter was staying back at home to study, but she was apparently out at 3 in the night with her boyfriend when this accident occurred. She informs Maya of this, seeking her help to get some justice for her daughter. Maya, who has put two and two together by now, shifts Rukhsana’s daughter to a better hospital with a private room.
We believe that these events, which comprise the first 30 minutes of the film, were the most heartbreaking. Because what follows is the actual crux of the story. As Maya deals with her guilt, there are three characters: a cop who is hell-bent on doing a shoddy investigation, a rookie reporter who wants to follow this story, and an offer for money that Rukhsana and her family receive, though it is unclear who offered it to them till the final few minutes of the film.
Rohini, the reporter, is in need of some money herself, to find a suitable place to stay. In the meantime, she pursues the story of the accident of Rukhsana’s daughter. It doesn’t take her long to find out who was responsible for it. She goes to the police and tells them that she has seen the CCTV footage, which is when the officer confesses that the camera caught him taking a bribe and a fellow officer creating a major nuisance by picking up a fight with a bystander. He is about to retire soon, and his daughter is getting married as well, so he cannot risk the investigation as it will adversely affect him. Which is why he and the other officer negotiated with the guy whose banner ended up covering the CCTV camera for a pay-out to the victim’s family. Rohini, already in a quandary due to the truth that she knows, is further disillusioned on hearing all this.
At this point, the viewer starts to have an uneasy feeling that maybe the truth should stay buried forever. The lie is turning out to be of monetary benefit to Rukhsana’s family while making sure that the inspector’s family retains their reputation and Maya, who is a very upstanding journalist otherwise, continues with her career and her family. We could think that she has paid for what she did by taking care of the consequences, even though she did not reveal her true reasons for it. But a question nags at us here. Would she have done the same for Rukhsana’s daughter if she had not been the one to hit her? If not, then her actions were just guilt disguised as generosity, with a touch of classist behavior.
‘Jalsa’ Ending Explained- Does The World Find Out Maya’s Truth?
Towards the end of the film, Maya has made her peace with her guilt and is ready to come out with her identity as Rukhsana’s culprit. Rukhsana, on the other hand, feels completely betrayed since she comes to know about Maya being the driver from her daughter’s boyfriend. She thinks that the pay-out has come from her and is wary of the real reason her daughter is in such an upscale hospital. Rukhsana goes to Maya’s house, where the members are happy to see her. She says that she wants to talk to Maya, but the grandmother tells her to finish cooking before they talk. As Rukhsanna sits dejectedly after finishing her work, the grandmother tells her to lighten up as they have done a lot for her, so a little tiff should be excused. This is where the classism of generosity becomes apparent, when the giver places the condition of a certain behavior on the receiver. Upon realizing this, Rukhsana asks to take the child to the beach.
In another scene, Maya has recorded her confession with the help of Rohini when she receives a call from her mother. She tells her that Rukhsana has left a lot of money at the house and taken her son to the beach. This alerts Maya to what could have happened, and she rushes to them. There is a traffic jam on her way, caused by those very people who made hiding her crime so easy. At this point, we question whether it was probably better to keep the truth hidden, but there seems to be an inevitable price to pay for it.
As Maya reaches the beach, she finds her son safe and sound and Rukhsana sitting next to her. “Jalsa” ends here.
Let’s assume for a second that Maya had come clean right after the accident. Being rich, she would likely not have gone to jail, and even if she did, it wouldn’t have been for long. The worst-case scenario would have been her career taking a major hit. Her family was financially well secured, as she herself mentions, so that would be the extent of the damage.
The cop who took the bribe would have been suspended, with his daughter’s marriage most likely being called off. Let’s continue to assume that Maya would still have paid for Rukhsana’s daughter’s treatment, but there would be no scenario of them receiving the extra money from the pay-out. So, after all the calculations, the benefits of the lie outweigh those of the truth. But is it ever that simple? Let’s not forget that Maya had left the injured girl on the road to die. It was only a matter of luck that she survived, and that is probably what Rukhsana wanted to convey when she took Maya’s son to the beach-the fear of not knowing what would happen to their child.
To look at it from another perspective, none of the characters were inherently evil in this scenario. Maya took her time but made the decision to come clean. The police inspectors were involved in petty bribe-taking but tried to come up with a solution that would benefit everyone, and Rukhsana herself was ready to let go of justice to look at the larger picture and settle for money. The characters were not evil, just conflicted and made morally ambiguous choices, which we accepted, thinking that all’s well that ends well.
When it comes to the cast and characters in “Jalsa,” Shefali Shah’s eyes should have a career of their own, considering how they do most of the acting in the film. Vidya Balan was predictably good, as was the rest of the cast. Manav Kaul is making a permanent place for himself in the genre of being the ex-boyfriend or husband making a cameo in a film. This is far from satisfying us, when we see just how infectious his charm is.
“Jalsa” certainly deserves more hype, and it deserves to be thought about more. That being said, a movie devoid of theatrics that has stuck to realism with subtlety and has made people think without overwhelming them is present in the form of “Jalsa.” And it deserves to be seen by everyone.
“Jalsa” is a 2022 Indian Drama Thriller Film directed by Suresh Triveni.