A father becomes a father after a child is born. But a mother becomes a mother from the moment the foetus is formed in her womb. When a teary-eyed Aishwarya Rai Bachchan mouths these lines in Jazbaa, you can almost sense her tears washing away the line separating the actor from the mother.
It's moments like these in Sanjay Gupta's 119-minute thriller—inspired by the South Korean film Seven Days—which makes one feel that Aishwarya has chosen well. The 41-year-old actor was last seen in the 2010-drama Guzaarish, after which she went on a extended maternity leave. In Jazbaa, Aishwarya plays Anuradha Verma, a high-flying criminal lawyer in Mumbai, for whom winning is everything. But her clean sheet becomes her bane, when she is forced to defend a rapist-killer Niyaz (Chandan Roy Sanyal), who is on death sentence, in lieu of her abducted daughter.
Helping her in the ordeal is Yohaan (Irrfan), a suspended but kickass cop, who has a soft corner for Anuradha. In the wild goose chase to find clues to save the accused from the jaws of death, they come face-to-face with the victim's mother (Shabana Azmi), and a politician (Jackie Shroff), both of whom don't want Niyaz to walk free, for their own reasons.
The film is, essentially, a tale of two mothers—Aishwarya and Shabana, both of whom are divorced—and their daughters. And both the mothers have put in stellar performances, though Shabana emerges the clear winner. The veteran actor emotes brilliantly as and when needed. Aishwarya, who looks fitter and meaner, had admitted in an interview that being a mother in real life helped her get into the skin of her character. At times, however, her portrayal of a mother caught between the devil and the deep blue sea, is melodramatic. Though a bit rusty in the beginning, she finds her groove as the film progresses.
Her Man Friday Irrfan, who doesn't seem to put a foot wrong nowadays, breezes through his role effortlessly—a reminder of why he is one of the most sought-after actors today. He is in his elements as the cop with a devil-may-care attitude and the trademark deadpan expression even when delivering lines like “Tere amma ne jiske bare mein nahi bataya, main tera woh baap hoon (I am that father of yours, your mother didn't tell you about)” to a baddie.
What lets the film down, however, are the costumes and the music. Nobody in his right mind would wear leather jackets or blazers in the sweltering heat of Mumbai. Somehow, the dark jackets and the greenish hue in the frames remind us of Gupta's 2002 flick Kaante. Stuck in the time warp, eh director? And the songs... well, a few people in the cinema hall used the time to go and answer nature's call. You get the drift, right?
There are instances, too, in the film, which were never explained. Like, how does Irrfan seem to have the whole police force at his disposal though he is suspended. Or, barring an instance, how was the kidnapper—once you come to know about the kidnapper's identity—keeping a watch on Anuradha's each and every movement.
Also, one disturbing inference, though a veiled one, that emerges from the film is that children, especially girls, raised by single mothers end up in trouble. For all the woman empowerment in the film, the 'message' proves to be a dampner.
Cast: Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Irrfan, Shabana Azmi, Chandan Roy Sanyal, Jackie Shroff
Director: Sanjay Gupta