Review: JAGAT (2015) | Casey's Movie Mania | Movie Reviews, Features & Others

Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Review: JAGAT (2015)

Set in the early 1990's, JAGAT revolves around a 12-year-old Indian boy named Appoy (Harvind Raj) living in a small village town. His father, Maniam (Kuhan Mahadevan) is a hardworking and strict patriarch, who wants his son to excel in school because he doesn't want to see him end up as losers like his two brothers, Bala (Senthil Kumaran Muniandy) and Mexico (Jibrail Rajhula).

REVIEW: In the wake of heavily-promoted December blockbusters such as STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS and IP MAN 3 currently playing to overwhelming response in the local cinemas nationwide, it's a shame that JAGAT is mostly sidetracked by many mainstream viewers due to lack of showtime. When I first saw JAGAT at the press screening a few weeks ago, it surprises me a lot especially for a local Tamil movie. After all, I always figured that local Tamil movies are often synonymous with typical comedy as well as song-and-dance routine. But JAGAT offers the kind of movie rarely seen in a local Tamil cinema: a thought-provoking drama that tackles on the social ills and hardships of the poor Indian community in Malaysia.

Making his feature directorial debut is Shanjhey Kumar Perumal, a former TV veteran and award-winning short film director of 2009's Machai. He certainly shows a lot of promises with his layered direction that is both involving and heartfelt at the same time. Best of all, he made a wise choice for retaining the necessary grit, without sugarcoating most of the dark themes such as drugs and gangsterism. At times, the movie can be hard to watch, especially during a scene where Maniam punishes his son by tying him to the tree.

However, it's not all doom-and-gloom matter in JAGAT as Shanjhey, along with the help of cinematographer Senthil Kumaran Muniandy himself, manages to find lyrical beauty within the rural area from the 13 locations shot around Malaysia. On the other hand, JAGAT is surprisingly funny as well, particularly in an elaborate scene where Appoy humiliates his Math teacher.

The acting performances are top notch, given the fact that most of them are newcomers. But of all the actors here, I was particularly impressed with the naturalistic performance of a child prodigy by Harvind Raj as Appoy.

If there's any flaw in this movie, the editing and pacing in JAGAT can be both jarring and off-putting at times. But if you can look past the shortcomings, JAGAT remains one of the best local movies ever made in 2015.

JAGAT is a rarity in the Malaysian-Tamil cinema: a flawed, but well-meaning drama featuring a standout performance by newcomer Harvind Raj.

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