Starring Anupam Kher, Kumud Mishra, Esha Gupta
Directed by Ashok Nanda
It is an audacious idea, not fully or convincingly implemented. But nevertheless interesting for the way the theme of subversion of justice is used to create a whole narrative of anarchy.
And then there are the actors, some of them like Anupam Kher, Kumud Mishra, Zarina Wahab and Ananth Mahadevan so effective you are tempted to overlook the giant leaps into absurdity that the plot daringly negotiates at the risk of falling into the abyss.
Deep down, this is a film, not free of flab and humbug, that cares, in its own twisted melodramatic way about the subversion and near-collapse of the justice and morality in India. Anubhav Sinha recently made the masterpiece Article 15 on monstrous inequalities in the social system. This frail followup doesn’t intend to have Sinha’s lofty ambitions.
One Day Justice Delivered aims itself at a much lower, and achieves some success on that level. It would be no exaggeration to say Anupam Kher, with some help from Kumud Mishra, shoulders the plot’s unwieldy yet relevant weight. Kher plays a newly-retired Judge who decides to set right some of his wrong judgments in the past that allowed serious offenders to go scot-free. This preposterous plan is never formulated with credible plot patterns.
There are interesting “socially acceptable criminals” like the doctor-couple (Murli Sharma, Deepshika Nagpal) who deliberately allow a bomb-blast victim to die, or a hotelier who secretly shoots a honeymooning couple. Kher takes on the role of the justice-driven vigilante with a stubborn slouch that shows his belief in the adage about justice-delayed-justice-denied. Kumud Mishra as a wheezing cop, determined to lose weight, is in fine form, especially when asked to take orders from a female cop who insists on calling him ‘Chacha’.
The narrative works well when exploring the underbelly of the legal system and loopholes in the judiciary, but slips up with demoniacal digressions induced by ‘item songs’ which have seen better ‘daze’.
Ironically a film about injustice repeatedly commodifies women in various poses of tawdry trance dances. These song breaks are the film’s undoing. With a tighter editing pattern and less number of character swarming the canvas like flies, this thriller would have been more thrilling. By the time Esha Gupta’s Haryanvi cop act (not bad at all) enters midway, her midriff preceding her entry, the narrative has established itself a place in the not-so-august range of headline-driven absurdities.
This film works on the what-if level. What if a powerful High Court judge gets conscience pricks after retirement? And what if a film on his moral awakening was given a more delicately drawn treatment? The Jharkhand landscape is used fairly well to amplify the theme of delayed justice. But there is too little Jharkhand and too many compromises meant to placate an audience that no longer needs to be mollycoddled with close-ups of wriggling waistlines, and an insistent background that beckons us with banshee shrieks.