Jung (Hindi for "war" )is the latest step in our march through recent Bollywood films, and guess what? It's a blatant rip-off of two recent Hollywood films. Maybe we're just seeing the wrong films, but we're beginning to wonder if the Indian film industry has any original ideas.
Jung starts out with the kidnapping of a young girl. The parents are warned not to call the police, but they do so anyway. Inspector Veer (Jackie Shroff) somehow finds the kidnappers' hideout and Chow Yun-Fats his way through a shootout with them, during which none of the kidnappers are smart enough to use the kid as a hostage. Veer kills most of the kidnappers and takes one prisoner. Unfortunately, the prisoner is killed by the overzealous Inspector Khan (Aditya Panscholi).
Khan is a police officer known for killing suspects in custody. You would think that would be the kind of thing that would get someone fired from the police force, but not in India. In the five Indian films we've seen to date the police are portrayed as being violent and incompetent at best, and grossly corrupt at worst. The commissioner that oversees both Veer and Khan knows well of Khan's homicidal tendencies, but he gets results, dammit! He just wishes that the more by-the-book Veer could work better with Khan. Instead the two butt heads constantly. (Sniff, sniff... is that a "cop buddy" movie we smell?)
"I'm going to get whoever bought
me this electric blue jacket!
Veer is married to Naina (Raveena Tandon, who was also in Ziddi, also winner of the first annual All India Salma Hayek Look-a-Like Contest), and they have a son Sahil. Americans will be glad to hear that Indian child-acting technology is not any more advanced than ours, so of course the kid is annoying and precocious. And because he seems happy and well-adjusted, he suddenly becomes deathly ill.
At the hospital Veer and Naina get the bad news. Sahil has "blood cancer," by which we're pretty sure they mean leukemia. And apparently Indian medical technology is way ahead of ours because the surgeon promises a 100% chance of recovery if a suitable bone marrow donor can be found. We here at Stomp Tokyo aren't doctors or anything, but isn't a bone marrow transplant a pretty chancy operation, and don't you usually have essentially zero chance of resuming a normal life afterwards?
But for the purposes of this movie, a bone marrow transplant will save Sahil's life and return everything to normal. We know what normal is thanks to a musical number that occurs, tastelessly enough, right after the scene where we find out Sahil is dying. Apparently, a normal day for Veer's family involved lip-synching to a bad Indian pop song while dancing with ten identically-dressed guys who show up out of nowhere. So if Sahil doesn't get that bone marrow transplant, Menudo may have to look elsewhere for a new member.
"No, I don't know Britney Spears.
Why do you ask?"
Veer starts an exhaustive search for a matching donor (naturally, Sahil has a super-rare blood type), something that is apparently his responsibility. Geez, HMOs in India suck! Veer does find a matching donor, but the man is unacceptable to Veer. The matching donor is Balli (Sanjay Dutt, winner of the first annual All India Judd Nelson Look-a-Like Contest), a convicted murderer and flamboyant psychopath who was put in jail years before by Veer. But since he's running out of options, Veer tries to get Balli to agree to the transplant. Initially Balli refuses, on the grounds that he is being given an opportunity to kill an innocent person while staying behind bars, but he relents when Naina begs him to save her son's life. Surprisingly, there is no musical number to illustrate this scene.
If you are somewhat familiar with recent Hollywood product, you will probably recognize this plot from the film Desperate Measures, starring Andy Garcia and Michael Keaton. As with that film, Balli escapes before the operation can be performed, and Veer has to try to recapture Balli alive, something that may be challenging, especially considering the fact the police commissioner has put Khan on the case of recovering Balli, and he isn't even pretending he wants Khan to bring Balli in alive!
"Aahhh! You're not Nick Cage!"
But then something weird happens. The film just totally switches gears, and after taking all that time to set up the Desperate Measures plot, Jung becomes something else altogether. Suddenly the story concentrates on Balli for the next hour or so, and his attempts to retrieve some money that he stole before he was jailed. But before he goes for the money Balli hooks up with his old girlfriend Tara (Shilpa Shetty, winner of the first annual All India Gina Gershon Look-a-Like Contest), who is (and after you've seen about two Bollywood films you will see this coming a mile away) a dancer at a club. So this gives Balli an excuse to dance, dance, dance!
The last hour of Jung greatly resembles Face/Off, with Balli as a cut-rate version of Nicholas Cage playing Castor Troy. Balli wears a leather jacket, has two shiny custom guns, and in one scene he even buttons up one of his henchmen's shirts -- while it's still on the henchman. Oh, and he does that weird hand thing.
The action scenes are lifted more or less whole from Face/Off as well. There is a shootout in warehouse, a chase across the rooftops, even a car chase on an airplane tarmac. (That last scene doesn't include any aircraft, though. We are talking about Bollywood here.) The only vestige of the original plot is Khan's pursuit of Balli, which ends in an awkwardly mounted duel between two vehicles playing chicken.
These were the steps taken to
insure there is no Jung 2.
Rumor was that this production was troubled, though precisely what the trouble was we were not quite able to figure out. However, we would have to suspect that Shroff jumped ship at some point, judging from his near total absence from the second half from the film. As it is, the movie feels badly fractured, like two different movies were clumsily sewn together.
Making the film seem even more schizoid are the musical numbers. Keep in mind, we aren't against Shilpa Shetty in a skimpy outfit dancing to bad pop music. As a matter of fact, we're for it! They should make whole movies about that, maybe even a six-hour mini-series. But whatever enjoyment we got from these musical numbers was at the expense of the movie. Several of the musical numbers here are so weird that they call attention to themselves, and made us wonder what relation they have to the movie. In one, set to a Hindi remake of the Davenport/Cooley song "Fever," we watch Balli and Tara get it on (or get it on as much as anyone does in Indian cinema, where kisses are rare) while in completely unrelated footage we see some guy singing to a girl on the hood of a car. Perhaps this other guy is the actual artist of the song (an anomaly, because the actors usually just lip synch to other people's songs, even in live performances!), but it's just confusing to have some other guy show up singing during what is supposed to be an intimate moment. Later on in an even more bizarre moment, Balli seems to be watching a musical number about himself on the screen at an abandoned movie theater.
Then there's the case of poor Jackie Shroff. He seems to be a fairly serious actor stuck in an industry that requires actors to sing and dance. So during those scenes Jackie has a look on his face that says, "Robert DeNiro doesn't have to do this." Things get particularly bad in one dance number where Jackie is clearly watching costar Raveena Tandon's feet to figure out when to jump.
Ok, maybe he's just looking at her butt.
There manages to be a happy ending for every character here, except for Khan, who in this twisted story is the "real" villain. It's shame that this movie didn't have a more compelling, or even coherent, story, because it's obvious that a lot of talent and money went into this film.