Once upon a time there was a small but likeable film—Jolly LL.B. It did not exactly set the cash registers ringing but won the awards for the best Hindi film and best supporting actor at the 61st National Awards, in spite of not being a typical art film. Saurabh Shukla won the latter award for his brilliant portrayal of Justice Sunderlal Tripathi. The banter between him and Arshad Warsi—the 'original' Jolly lawyer—and Boman Irani was the life of the film.
Four years down the line, not much seems to have changed. In the second film of the 'Jolly franchise', The State vs. Jolly LL.B 2, Shukla reprises the role of the affable yet strict judge to hilarious effect. So much so that he gives the star of this film—Akshay Kumar, the 'new' Jolly lawyer—a run for his money. From the scene he makes his entry to the last frame where he delivers the judgment, he entertains the audience. Yes, the word is 'entertain'. He is way more energetic, shakes his booty and even sits on a dharna in the court! One might feel director and screenwriter Subhash Kapoor, who directed Jolly LL.B, too, went a little overboard with Shukla's theatrics, but the “teddy bear” can be forgiven.
A couple of other actors from the first film who make an appearance in the second one are Sanjay Mishra (in the role of Guruji) and Sushil Pandey (who appeared as the all-important witness Sadakant Mishra in Jolly LL.B) as Ramkumar Bahdoria. While the reloaded Guruji hardly makes a splash, Ramkumar plays a pivotal role in Jolly LL.B 2.
But the person who does make a splash, apart from Shukla, is Akshay Kumar as Jagdishwar Mishra aka Jolly. Mishra is a Kanpur-born lawyer who is struggling to come out of the shadow of a renowned lawyer Rizvi Sa'ab in Lucknow. He finally finds his feet but at a heavy price, both literally and otherwise. The rest of the film deals with how he goes about setting things right to atone for his 'sin', and how, in the process, he transforms from a shrewd lawyer without a moral compass to a messiah in black robes. The expectations are naturally high when a big actor features in the sequel of a small film. Taking nothing away from Arshad Warsi, who did a brilliant job as Jagdish Tyagi aka Jolly in the first film, Akshay Kumar has managed to do complete justice to the role.
His counterpart is the ruthless advocate, Pramod Mathur (Annu Kapoor). Though the veteran actor gets his Lucknowi adayen and slang correct, he fails to match the despicable Advocate Rajpal (Irani) in Jolly LL.B. The supporting cast plays its role silently—be it Huma Qureshi as Pushpa Pandey, the whisky-swigging and Gucci-loving wife of Jolly, or the villainous cop, Suryavir Singh (Kumud Mishra), or Sayani Gupta who leaves quite an impact as the heavily pregnant Hina Siddiqui.
What struck a sour note, though, was the music by Meet Bros. The film could have been shot without a single song, and the audience would not have batted an eyelid. Also, Kapoor has tried to bring in a lot of elements into the script like woman empowerment (rather, gender reversal), nationalism, terrorism, politics (read, Jammu and Kashmir agitations) and the ailing Indian judicial system. A little less melodrama ("Nirupa Roy-wali acting" as the film itself says) and tighter editing would have done wonders for the 140-minute film. In spite of such shortcomings, The State vs. Jolly LL.B 2 is well worth a watch this weekend.
Film: The State vs. Jolly LL.B 2
Cast: Akshay Kumar, Saurabh Shukla, Annu Kapoor, Huma Qureshi, Sayani Gupta
Director: Subhash Kapoor