Political thrillers often portray incidents from real life, and director Dijo Jose Anthony has tried to capitalise on this in Jana Gana Mana starring Prithviraj and Suraj Venjaramoodu.
In this particular film, it is police encounters that form the crux of the plot, with Prithviraj playing Aravind Swaminathan, the protagonist.
Aravind’s friend Saba Mariam (Mamta Mohandas) is a professor at Hyderabad’s Central University who fights for students’ rights. The sudden rape and gruesome murder of Saba Mariam sets in motion a media frenzy, student protests and police investigation.
With mounting protests by the university students, police officer Sajjan Kumar (Suraj Venjaramoodu) is put in charge of this crucial investigation after the students are beaten up badly by cops. Since politicians are involved in this issue, his job is tougher than it looks and nabbing the culprits is not easy. Sajjan is taken off the case but what does he do next? Will he take matters into his own hands?
Aravind, who is fighting for the underprivileged, appears in court taking over the second half of the film. Will the questions and issues he raises provide an answer? Will the truth about the murder of Saba Mariam prevent more such murders?
While watching this movie, we are reminded of numerous incidents that have happened in the country over the last several years. Saba Mariam’s role seems to have been influenced by the 2019 Hyderabad gang rape case while the questions Aravind raises include those that came up in the Rohith Vemula case and in the case of the murder of tribal Madhu in Kerala in 2018.
Religion, caste and far-right politics all make an appearance in this film, along with fake police encounters and how as a society we are extremely prejudiced. A rape occurs every 15 minutes but we protest and fight for a few. Why should students get beaten up for participating in a ‘Kiss of Love’ campaign. And so on. The politics of the film raise pertinent questions which can be uncomfortable but important in today’s world.
Jana Gana Mana has its intentions right but the execution, unfortunately, is not flawless. Director Anthony in trying to project a strong Aravind battling for the less privileged, has dumbed down his other characters a little too much. It is a dialogue-heavy film, sometimes going over the top in trying to create an impact and at times, jarring. Aravind is clearly from the privileged class, and fighting for the weak and underprivileged reeks of elitism. Had he also been from the weaker section of society and come out a winner, the film would have had a bigger impact.
Having said that, the performances in the film are stellar - Prithviraj is the show stealer in this film, with Suraj Venjaramoodu lending good support. We see many other characters in the film as well but they don't have much to do nor a great scope to perform.
A Prithviraj-starrer has been released in theatres after a long time and Jana Gana Mana, the political thriller, is extremely engaging.Jana Gana Mana released in theatres on April 28, 2022.