PRAKASH JHA is not a very subtle filmmaker. Broadly speaking, he is a political commentator in Hindi cinema, but he is not nuanced in his presentation, and the politics, usually set in his home state of Bihar, is in your face. Jai Gangaajal is certainly an improvement on his last tacky melodrama, Satyagraha, but it remains a simplistic film. The political landscape is the feudal and patriarchal world of Bihar that Jha has been obsessed with since his excellent debut film Damul. This movie is about land mafia in a small town who grab land from poor farmers at bargain prices and hand it over to corporates for a power project coming up in the area. The farmers are vulnerable because their crops have failed and they’re in debt, and some are committing suicide. To top it all, it is election time and political vultures are descending to feed on all the misery.
Superintendent of Police Abha Mathur (Priyanka Chopra) is air dropped into this bleak scenario to bring about a semblance of law and order. She is placed in charge of a de-moralised police force, riddled with corrupt or compromised officers, one of them played by Prakash Jha himself. In an extraordinary coup d’etat, Jha arranges it so that his own character gradually becomes the central one in the movie and Chopra is reduced to playing a smartly turned out SP who occasionally swings a lathi, but mostly jumps into police cars, sirens blaring, and arrives at the scene of the crime after the action is over. She orders a few arrests and is done for the day. It turns out that all the background work of collecting crucial evidence against the lead goon (Manav Kaul) is conducted by BN Singh (Jha), who is revealed to be a complex individual, haunted by guilt and determined to make amends for previous lapses.
Having stolen the movie from its lead actress, the director then brings the film to a climax. Why cast Chopra in the first place? One’s left wondering.