Psychological thrillers are tricky waters. You can go either very right with them, or, very wrong. A little bit of ill writing, and you’re on the wrong side. And that’s not just with this collective genre, but even with both, psychological films and thrillers. Remember how Sujoy Ghosh’s Kahaani 2 couldn’t match up to its prequel, even though Vidya Balan was at her brilliant best in that film?
When it’s said, content is king, it’s said rightly so. While I would give Kangana Ranaut and Rajkummar Rao their due credits for breathing life into Bobby and Keshav, it is Kanika Dhillon (writer) who deserves a standing ovation. Dhillon is known for carving out her female leads with a certain panache – Rumi in Manmarziyaan, Mandakini in Kedarnath and now Bobby in Judgementall Hai Kya.
The biggest challenge at hand, for Dhillon, Ranaut and director, Prakash Kovelamudi is that unlike Rani (Queen), Bobby knows who she is. So this whodunit cannot be a film about self revelation. Rani didn’t know who she was, she was on a journey where she would find herself. With Bobby it’s different. It is the people around her – her family, her supposed boyfriend, the society – who have to find out who she is. She’s understood as a lunatic, and I wouldn’t blame these people around her for thinking so. Why else would someone (who comes from a place of privilege) choose to go to a mental asylum for three months over a fine of ₹20000 for something she did. “Comfortable hoon,” she says, and goes to the asylum, sneaking in bars of Hoppits chocolate.
All credits to Kanika Dhillon for writing Bobby like this. Bobby has a clinical problem, but she unapologetically throws away her medicines, and lusts over a married man, who happens to be her tenant. Professionally, she’s a dubbing artist. So she has in her, traits of each of those women characters she dubs, imagining herself in each of the scenes, in each of the films. And after dubbing, photoshops herself into snapshots of the film. She’s all over the place but she’s intriguing, like a mystery. She’s not likeable, so Dhillon and Ranaut don’t even try to make her that. But what’s really likeable about her is her wardrobe. Kudos to costume designer Sheetal Sharma for making Bobby look the way she does.
The question that arose in my head, while I was praising Dhillon after the film, was would Bobby be Bobby had it not been for Kangana Ranaut? Perhaps not. When you watch the film, you tend to believe that Dhillon wrote this part only and only for Ranaut and that she wouldn’t have taken no for an answer. This isn’t the first time Ranaut is playing an eccentric character, if I may call Bobby that. She’s done it in Gangster, in Fashion. But Bobby is different. Shonali (Fashion) was a scared soul, she knew there will come a day when a Meghna Mathur would replace her. Bobby knows she’s one of a kind and is very secure about her position in her own life, also because she doesn’t have friends. When someone asks her if she has friends, in the most normal way, she says, “zaroorat nahi hai”. Ranaut doesn’t play Bobby as a loud character. Instead, she gets into her skin and plays her subtly, which is an art in itself, which Ranaut has seemed to master over the years. This is indeed, one of her bests.
Rajkummar Rao plays Keshav. The second suspect in this whodunit. Keshav is a married man, who lies to his wife about smoking and eating non-vegetarian food. This is not a spoiler, it’s there in the trailer. Unlike Bobby, Keshav leads a normal life, “very normal” Bobby calls it. And unlike Bobby, he’s subtle. A little aggressive, but mostly subtle. And like always, Rao gives Keshav his everything, and succeeds beautifully.
What’s best about Judgementall Hai Kya is that both Kangana Ranaut and Rajkummar Rao are such secure actors, each masters of their own craft, that they let the other shine when need be. There are scenes in which Ranaut takes the backseat and lets Rao do his thing, and scenes when Rao does the same for her. And that is the truest testament of an actor. And it is this security that both these individuals have that sparks a wonderful chemistry between them.
At two hours, the film doesn’t seem like a burden, but a tighter hand at editing, in the second half, could’ve made it a masterpiece. It still is a brilliant film nevertheless. The Ramayan angle in London, is brilliant, and understanding the headspace Bobby and Keshav are in, seems to fall in place too.
All in all, why Judgementall Hai Kya perhaps works, is because it’s brave, and new, and doesn’t shy away from calling it that. It establishes Kanika Dhillon as a master writer, and re-establishes both Ranaut and Rao as the powerful performers they are!
Follow us on Instagram here: