In a story of passion and betrayal, a chance meeting brings together down-and-out lawyer Kabir Lal (John Abraham) and young, sexy Sonia (Bipasha Basu), the wife of a wealthy middle-aged industrialist. The sexual chemistry between the young lovers grows with each encounter, and Kabir falls deeper and deeper under Sonia’s intoxicating spell, entangling him in a conspiracy to do away with her husband. A scorching noir thriller in the tradition of Basic Instinct and Body Heat, this stylish, music-filled hit was one of the most controversial and successful Bollywood releases of recent years and will keep you on the edge of your seat until the final shocking twist.
eyelights: Surprisingly sexy for a Bollywood movie – relatively-speaking, of course.
eyesores: The “acting”. The mastering of the DVD.
“Chalo tumko lekar chaley… Come, let me take you…”
Yes, the film is called ‘Jism’. And, no, it’s not a porn flick. Actually, it’s a Bollywood motion picture – and, in Hindi, jism means “body”.
“Body” can easily have a double meaning here:
– Frankly, I don’t know what the intentions of the filmmakers were, and don’t really care, but “body” must surely refer to the picture’s femme fatale, in that her powers of seduction are supposed to be connected to her physical beauty.
– It could also be a reference to the plot, in which there will be murder – and, thus, a body.
I had known about this film for quite some time: as a DVD copy was gathering dust in the next door pawn shop and I kept stumbling upon it during my visits. Since it looked like cheesy erotica, however, and given the fact that I mostly loathe musicals, I always chuckled and moved on.
Then I discovered that a sequel was about to be released. Granted, it was produced nine years after the original, but it still suggested that the original had had enough impact to warrant attention. I found it peculiar that it took so long, but ‘Basic Instinct’ was followed-up on fourteen years after the original – the industry is weird that way.
So, amused by the title, curious to find out what the fuss is all about, and having recently read that this was based on ‘Double Indemnity‘, which I rather liked, I decided that it was perhaps worth checking out. I mean, really… a Bollywood version of ‘Double Indemnity’? Intriguing.
Anyway, I figured that, worst case scenario, I could always pass it on it to one of my Bollywood-loving friends as a gift.
Well, it turns out that I just might have to.
‘Jism’ is almost everything that I initially expected it to be: The acting is deficient, the dialogue is simple-minded, and the story is clichéd, totally non-credible. I also hated both leads: our male star is merely a pretty boy with extremely limited acting chops and the femme fatale isn’t really attractive in the traditional sense (at least not by North American standards), leading me to wonder exactly what made her so alluring. I sat there incredulous.
On the positive side, the songs weren’t vomit-inducing. But it’s nonetheless irritating to have a romantic thriller interrupted incessantly by pop songs of limited quality. Thankfully, the performers rarely sang and/or danced along – the musical numbers were more akin to music videos, with the music overlaying the sequences. Even the editing tended to be off, showing its seams. So, essentially, ‘Jism’ is an ambitious feature length-film with but the skill and know-how of late-’80s music videos.
The audio was terrible; it was all-too-obvious that much of it was re-recorded in post-production. It sounded SO bad. And that’s not even considering that the songs were clearly lip-synched – so the whole audio side of this production hurt. And, to make matters worse, the sound was distorted at times, as though it was improperly processed to DVD.
Similarly, the print that the DVD producers (Worldwide Entertainment Group) chose was transferred very poorly. It was like being at the cinema in the good ol’ days, hearing pops between the reels and watching the flutter of scratches and debris on the screen. Sigh… I’ve rarely encountered that issue on DVDs released in the last decade, or with modern films. Talk about shoddy.
I found the experience slightly tedious; it felt unusually long. I even went so far as to watch it in a couple of blocks – something I rarely do. I tried to focus on the similarities between this and ‘Double Indemnity’, but could barely find any, aside from the obvious femme fatale and murder plot point. (I have since read that ‘Jism’ is based on “Body Heat’ – which was based on ‘Double Indemnity’. So there is some degree of distance between them)
Having read/heard countless times that Bollywood films avoid on-screen kissing, I was surprised to discover that ‘Jism’ had kissing and many suggestive moments. In fact, it had a certain erotic quality to it – albeit in a totally sanitized fashion. It was nothing that hadn’t been done before, and done better, but it was a pleasant surprise all things considered.
I would be quite curious to know if North American Bollywood fans enjoy this picture. Is it a standard offering? Or is this one an anomaly? Either way, its success in India (18th biggest grosser ever!), suggests some appeal.
Still, despite this, ‘Jism’ is not a film that I would recommend to most. If anything, it’s a oddity, a kind of picture that we don’t see much of on these shores – but I’m not really convinced that the novelty is worth the agony.
Personally, I didn’t develop a taste for ‘Jism’. I highly doubt I’ll be seeing the sequel.
Date of viewing: September 12, 2012