In a land somewhere in Mumbai lives, a great man named Salman Khan. One day he woke up, early, and saw dim and gloom faces around his house. Some frail looking creatures—some teary eyed, some hanging their faces dull, while some staring into emptiness—the atmosphere was filled with a negative vibe. Those faces were of unemployed, impoverished, or simply, maladroit actors, technicians, experts, and members of the India film fraternity: Yash Tonk, Vatsal Seth, Ashmit Patel, Daisy Shah, Sana Khan, Sunil Shetty, Aditya Pancholi, Sharad Kapoor, Mukul Dev, Pulkit Samrat, Tulip Joshi, Nauheed Cyrusi, Bruna Abdullah, Santosh Shukla, Vikas Bhalla, etc. Among those faces, Sohail Khan and Sajid-Wajid also made their presence felt. It was indeed a dark day. With Salman always in the mood for charity and benevolence, he decided to help each of these pedestrian souls into realizing their dreams and legacies. He decided to cast each of these B-grade actors/members of the film industry, and they sang a chorus together—Salman ki JAI HO! Consequently, Jai Ho came into being because Salman was in some modest, charitable mood that one morning.
After delivering five consecutive Blockbusters (Dabbang, Ready, Bodyguard, Ek Tha Tiger, Dabbang 2), Jai Ho is working wonders in breaking the streak for Salman Khan. In what starts as a tale of two ends, Jai Ho stoops devastatingly low, with practically no plot and storyline in the first half—a movie one would assume to be a surreal cinema, without a concrete plot, but mere snippets conjoining events in the story. Only this time, from one of the weakest filmmakers of our generation, Sohail Khan; who does it again after Hello Brother in jinxing Salman’s gigantic box-office record and adding to the collection featuring some pronounced gems such as Dabbang (2010) and Ek Tha Tiger (2012), and some hounding pieces in the forms of Dabbang 2 (2012) and now, Jai Ho. What is wrong with these Khan Brothers—Arbaaz and Sohail? First, it was Arbaaz’s weak Dabbang 2 and now Sohail’s wacky Jai Ho; Salman surely has eloped back to the phase of selecting poor scripts, if his last two movies are anything to go by.
A remake of Telugu movie Stalin (2006) and loosely based on Pay it Forward (2000), Jai Ho is a story of a common person, Jai Aghnihotri, ex-army officer freed from his responsibilities for reasons beyond absurdity. Sharing a special bond with his sister, Geeta, played by the brilliant Tabu, he lives by the motto of being human and helping those around. While on it, Jai creates a humanitarian chain, whereby one is supposed to help three such people instead of thanking them (Pay it Forward). The chain doesn’t pick steam for a while until later—it becomes a mass execution of charity, with the chain spreading all across the city. During the same period, a corrupt politician crosses path with Jai while commencing another story in the majestic life of one ordinary man, Jai.
For a long time now, it has become a fad to thrash Salman’s movies. Being among the few believers in Salman’s vision of cinema, partly: a degree of sumptuousness, larger than life heroism, complete entertainment, and ultimately a movie worth the ticket prices for the common person, Salman has managed to actualize his vision. Whether it was Wanted, Dabbang, Bodyguard, or Ek Tha Tiger, each movie had something entertaining to offer, with Dabbang achieving cult status in India and Ek Tha Tiger being perhaps the finest espionage drama in modern Indian cinema history. In comparison, and with the lowest of expectations, Jai Ho simply doesn’t work. Bottom line.
After a decent start, especially Salman’s trademark bracelet entry to bash the goons like only Salman does, the movie plummets in the first 15 minutes itself and loses track. The entire first half does not enhance the plot, except for the Pay it Forward concept. Trivial subplots such as Salman’s untimely and abrupt romance with Pinky (Daisy Shah), his mother’s filmy bride-hunting process (played by theater Guru, Nadira Babbar); fellowship with Yash Tonk (as Babu) and Ashmit Patel (as Sumit); these subplots add nothing to the ultimate purpose of the movie. They’re like mere houseflies humming around Salman Khan as Jai.
Essentially, what is the spine of the movie? Yes, the idea of helping a trinity is a stellar concept—though not original—yet Sohail Khan documents these scenes akin to a documentary of some real life incidents, rather captured poorly, than telling of a gripping story about a man and his mission to bring change. The development of the concept isn’t convincing at all. It seems unplanned, hastily executed without any forethought, and just thrown together because it’s Salman Khan, and he is like a God of the box office. Travesty in every sense; Jai Ho is a travesty of an opportunity, perhaps even the movie…
What works in Jai Ho? The second half, after the typical Bollywood interval, picks up in momentum and gathers some steam. With the entry of Home Minister Dashrat Singh, played by the coveted Danny Denzongpa, Jai Ho gathers a concrete purpose and receives a much-needed reprise away from the pointless shenanigans of the first half. Salman Khan gets a lease and frees himself into his comfort zone. In the first half, Salman’s performance itself was melodramatic and poorly executed, with the director handling the concept in the lowliest form imaginable. The second half gives Salman fans and fans of dhamakedaar action just want they want; it is the return of He-Man, Salman Khan. The second half takes the movie as much ahead as it could, but the damage of the first half is irreparable.
On a balance, Jai Ho is a massive disappointment. That in itself is an understatement. Sohail Khan botches his project yet again, and, whatever Jai Ho does at the box office and critically would be a Salman Khan accomplishment. With an assembled cast and crew from the unemployment bureau, Salman not only delivers a social wanna-be flick, but genuinely executes a noble social work by providing employment and exposure to many of the personalities in the movie—on and off screen. Dreams would suggest that the movie could have been a distinct platform in spreading a genuine social message; at the end, it’s an archetypal Salman Khan flick ruined by the ineptitude of director Sohail Khan.
A note, by the way, somebody—please cast Sudhesh Lehri. He’s too talented to be wasted around. And, what was that overtly melodramatic stint with Genelia?! Jai Ho, indeed! Still better than Dhoom 3 though…