I am not deluded enough to think what’s written here will dissuade millions of fans from flocking to the cinema to watch Salman Khan’s Jai Ho. The hero behind hits such as Dabbang, Ready and the Bodyguard has proved to be critic-proof. The masses love him unconditionally and in their eyes Khan can do no wrong. And this superstar seems to be milking this sentiment to a frightening degree in this action drama.
In his latest directed by Suhail Khan, Khan plays a patriotic Indian army officer Jai Agnihotri who’s stripped of his powers when he disobeys his boss during a terrorist operation. He’s suspended and the disillusioned high-ranking officer becomes a car mechanic. But although he tinkers with jeeps he still jumps to help people in trouble.
In the first half, he’s shown helping a disabled student (Genelia D’Souza) write her exams and reunites a kidnapped toddler with his distraught mother. It’s all in a day’s work for Jai. But he doesn’t want to hear ‘thank yous’ and asks them to help three people around them instead (he says it’s a way of forming a human ‘goodness’ chain.)
So we get it. He’s an angel with rockstar looks. But the problem is that they drum his goodness and his Gandhian philosophy into our heads with irritating frequency. Just like Dabbang and Bodyguard, he’s like this incredible hulk. When provoked, this gentle giant turns into an animal. He snarls, he bites and sucks blood. His punchline: “The common man is like a sleeping lion, so don’t poke him” is laughable on paper, but Khan persists. Agreed, he has incredible star power but even he seems to be skating on thin ice here.
Perhaps, Salman Khan had a point when he said making films with a social message is tricky as it could get preachy or didactic. So what does Suhail Khan do? Insert some razzle-dazzle with newcomer Daisy Shah. She’s looks good in those flimsy saris and barely-there blouses. Unlike the hit Munnabhai series starring Sanjay Dutt, which was also about bringing social change, the director doesn’t have a particularly strong script or the deftness to lighten a dense evangelical issue. The villains (Danny Denzongpa as the mean political leader and his spoilt, spiteful daughter Sana Khan) are old-school baddies. They employ goons in their political party and snuff out the opposition by gunning them down. Naturally, the police officers on duty are on their payroll (haven’t we seen all this before?)
The story of Jai Ho is far too simplistic to be taken seriously. While it’s laudable that Khan plays the righteous Samaritan, he doesn’t progress beyond the help-each-other-out phase. The gory action sequences are all orchestrated to highlight Khan’s buffed- up body and there’s one too many. The climax in which Khan’s shirt rips to show a gleaming, magnificent torso might make this journey less painful. Tabu of The Namesake fame plays the token elder sister who supports her brother unconditionally. She’s good but when you are watching a Salman Khan, it’s all about him. Jai Ho isn’t any different. Physically, Khan, 48, doesn’t look a day older than 35 and is in fine physical shape.
While the notion that the power of the common man shouldn’t be underestimated is noble in Jai Ho, I wish its makers had also remembered not to underestimate their common sense.