For long, I have wondered if a film with a woman protagonist could be a proper commercial film. And by commercial here, I don’t mean ‘anything that is sold’. I am talking about the masala films, with all its tropes, in all its glory — men flying around, the glitzy songs, the larger-than-life action, and so on. Jackpot has Jyothika in her massiest avatar, launching men into the air, dancing uninhibitedly to outlandish songs with the lovely Revathy for company. And the duo is out to do some outrageous things, like searching for an ‘atchaya paathiram’ in 2019. One can say Jackpot is the closest answer I have got in recent times to my initial question.
Director Kalyan’s ‘answer’ isn’t very convincing though. Kalyan seems to like creating storyscapes from the 90s — ones that feel extremely familiar and at the same time foreign, because we have left them back in the 90s. In that way, Jackpot feels like Gulebaghavali all over again. (not just because both films have Revathy as Maasha). These are stories where a ‘guduguduppukaran’ has magical powers, when an all-endowing vessel becomes the solution for world issues. Sigh, if only life works that way.
While the normal masala entertainer would rely on the star’s mass appeal, Jackpot plays the humour card. It joins the list of films that no one seems to take seriously, except for a few of us who write about films. Not the makers, and definitely not the larger audience. To call the film’s writing convenient would be an massive understatement. Here’s an example. Akshaya (Jyothika) and Maasha get stuck in a tough spot and Maasha concocts a ridiculous story to get their way out. Akshaya leans in to ask, “Unaku samalika vera kadhaye kidaikala.” It is a question that we ask Kalyan at times, given the extremely convenient turns, the narrative of Jackpot takes.
The humour doesn’t work in most places and sometimes, make you even question the standards for comedy we have these days. Body shaming Yogi Babu is usual business — I am tired of wondering who is enjoying these ‘remove your mask’ and ‘you resemble an animal’ jokes anymore. But there’s another one where Anandraj plays a woman, again neither funny nor appropriate. However, there are jokes that land, delivered mostly by Kingsley and Thangadurai. Sadly, these are few and far between.
Jackpot isn’t a great film, not even a good one in fact. However, it was quite fun to watch Jyothika and Revathy let their hair down completely — probably why they chose to be part of this film. I like how Jyothika springs a surprise — Naachiyaar after a Magalir Mattum and now a Jackpot after a Raatchasi. Even though Akshaya and Maasha aren’t the best of the characters written out there, Jyothika and Revathy’s exuberance makes a compelling argument for the film. I quite enjoyed where Jyothika parodies Durai Singam, one of Suriya’s most popular characters, and her stunts as well. I wish they were given a better film altogether, but the least would have been to give the ‘sob backstory’ a miss. But I guess that’s the line Jyothika has drawn for herself. Women just can’t have all the fun, can they?