I walked into Jackpot fairly sure that it isn’t going to be my cup of tea — parts of the trailer told me as much. But I was eager to watch it anyway because of Jyothika, who has done what previously thought to be impossible for Tamil film actresses: She got married, bore kids and is now back in the game, not as supporting mother/grandmother/aunt characters but as a leading lady. This in and of itself deserves applauds. But I also always buy a ticket to her movie hoping that this would finally be it. That Jyothika had finally chosen a screenplay that’s worthy of her talents. Her last four starrers — Raatchasi, Kaatrin Mozhi, Chekka Chivantha Vaanam and Naachiyar — have been disappointing. Jackpot is no different.
But at the very least, it isn’t a message movie. Instead of looking into the camera and spewing cringy moral values for two hours straight, she and her co-star Revathi play a pair of badass con artists/thieves. Without the shackles of a “message movie” holding her back, Jyothika is so alive in her role, she glows! I guess you could chalk it down to good diet and makeup, but I also think it’s because she genuinely had a lot of fun on set, playing a character with slightly loose principles like the protagonists in an Ocean’s or Fast & Furious movie. The scene where she pretends to be mentally challenged and says the popular Nayagan line “baba mar gaya” had me cracking up. Jyothika’s charisma here cannot be ignored and she has tremendous chemistry with Revathi too.
I don’t use the term badass loosely either. Jyothika and Revathi get fight scenes of their own, lengthy ones with plenty of slow-motion shots. These action sequences aren’t interestingly choreographed or directed, but at least director Kalyaan doesn’t hold back, clearly approaching this film with a ‘if men can do it, why not women?’ mentality. I enjoyed these scenes very much simply because of how unprecedented they are. A couple of times, I rubbed my eyes just to make sure that I am indeed watching Jyothika, not Suriya, swing on a pole and drop kick a baddie. The women also get a couple of stirring, fast-paced dance anthems in which they get down and rock harder than Kajal Agarwal has ever done.
Unfortunately, that’s about all the positives I can give. I don’t understand why a simplistic comedy-heist movie needs to have an exhausting runtime of 2 hours and 21 minutes. Jackpot could’ve benefited from a 90-100 minute runtime that’s snappy and kept the focus on Jyothika and Revathi’s characters. Instead, it takes us about an hour or so to even get to its simplistic premise: steal a magical pot (that will give you access to unlimited wealth) hidden beneath a cowshed in a politician’s house. Everything that happens before the jail scene is pointless.
I’ve never been a fan of separate comedy tracks in mainstream Tamil movies. (I’m referring to scenes featuring a comedian/comedians doing their own thing that have absolutely no ties to the actual story whatsoever — think Reema Sen and Vivek scenes in Dhool; Senthil and Vadivelu scenes in Muthu. They feel like random YouTube comedy skits, as opposed to organic humour like the ones in Kaala.) So, can you imagine how viciously my temple was throbbing watching Yogi Babu’s comedy track? Yes, this is an action-comedy that has its own separate comedy track! I guess it improves a micro amount when Yogi Babu’s character finally teams up with Jyothika and Revathi’s.
The joke once again is that Yogi Babu is fat and ugly. That line is paraphrased and repeated approximately 292 times in the movie, in the name of comedy. It was unbearable and terribly unfunny. I’m not saying you shouldn’t joke about fat people — humour is best when it’s dark and pushes the envelope –; I’m saying don’t crack the same joke over and over and over again in every single movie Yogi Babu is in.
But that’s the kinda uninspired nonsense you’ll be treated to in droves in Jackpot. There’s a scene where Motta Rajendran dunks his pizza in tea before munching on it. So, haha? Another scene sees a cake being smashed on a dude’s face. Hahaha? We also see a guy putting a bucket over his head and crying. Oh, and of course, cow poop jokes.
And then there’s the ending… that bloody ending.
**MINOR SPOILERS AHEAD**
As you would imagine, Jyothika and Revathi’s characters successfully acquire the magical pot after kicking a whole lot of ass. And then, for some reason, they start sharing a story about how difficult life was when Jyothika was a kid and that now they’ll use this magical pot to help society.
Can you hear that? That’s the sound of me sighing. Why do the characters need to “repent?” Why shoehorn in moral values? Why can’t morally ambiguous characters just be morally ambiguous characters? Is it a Jyothika problem or simply the screenplays she’s being dealt? Imagine Dominic Toretto and Danny Ocean suddenly saying “you know what? I’m going to donate the money I stole to the public school system.”
As I said, it isn’t my cup of tea.