Poster of SonyLIV's web show JL50 Photograph:( Facebook )
'JL50' review: With such a good cast and plot, the show is a mixed bag but an honest attempt at this sci-fi niche.
The theme of time travel is not new in Indian cinema. From Fun2shh in 2003 to Baar Baar Dekho in 2016, the audiences have seen a large variety of sci-fi scripts in the last two decades. What differentiates SonyLIV's JL50 from the rest of the lot is a certain degree of maturity in the way the concept of time travel has been dealt with.
Created, written and directed by Shalender Vyas, the plot of JL50 is summed up very well by the trailer itself. A flight, called JL50, crashed somewhere in northern Bengal. There were only two survivors of the crash, pilot Bhiu Ghosh (Ritika Anand) and professor Mitra (Piyush Mishra). This would have been just an ordinary plane crash, however, there is something extremely unusual: this flight took off 35 years ago from Kolkata airport. Both survivors have not aged one bit and look the same as they did 35 years ago. So the real mystery is where was the plane and its passengers for more than 3 decades?
The CBI officer Shantanu (Abhay Deol) thinks this is all a setup, however, his interaction with Professor Das (Pankaj Kapur) invites the possibility of the impossible - time travel.
There are a couple of things that clearly stood out in this series. First and foremost is the brilliant acting of the cast. Abhay Deol fits well in the character of Shantanu, an officer who might not be physically strong but tries his best to keep it together throughout his investigation. This is a good change from the usual CBI officer's we get to see in Hindi cinema, the ones which come out without a scratch from a gun battle against an army of people.
The cast also includes Pankaj Kapur, whose evergreen performance never fails to impress. We won't tell you how, but this character's development from the first to the fourth episode has been the most unpredictable thing in the show.
While Hollywood always amazes us with time-bending masterpieces like The Terminator and Interstellar, Indian sci-fi has failed to do this sci-fi niche any justice. The over-dramatized scenes and an attempt to dumb down the science proves to be a major let down in Indian cinema. However, this shouldn't stop us from appreciating a genuine effort in making this genre of sci-fi more believable. The theme of time travel as stated before has been handled with much more maturity in JL50 than previously done. Here you won't find a magically appearing space ship or time travel happening on its own without any possible logic behind it. In fact, the web show succeeds to Indianise time travel, linking it to mythology, which brings in an interesting flavor.
The show travels from Calcutta (1984) to Kolkata (2019) and reminds us that the City of Joy always had something special to offer. The background music which also includes a Bengali song adds a nice depth to the scenes.
One scene which really stuck was when Pankaj Kapur tries to compare scientific innovation in America versus that in India and how Indians are only bothered about religion, caste politics and superstition. He feels frustrated when we spot an object in the sky, we fold our hands and begin worshipping it, claiming "we do not ask what, why, how?"
JL50 finishes in a jiffy, as it has just 4 episodes of roughly 25 minutes each and ends up being more like a movie than a show. This becomes its double-edged sword. Due to the short length, no scene or episode seems dragged. You actually don't even notice when the fourth episode has arrived. But, on the other hand, the show ends up rushing through many plot points which quite frankly deserve an entire episode altogether. For instance, the explanation of the mythological link to time travel should have been fleshed out more. This, along with many other instances make the plot seem confusing, especially in the first 2 episodes.
However, the biggest let down in the show is its final episode, as the ending of the show has been cramped into merely 15-20 mins. There were loopholes as well which slipped into the linear narrative. For example. we were given a glimpse into Shantanu's personal life as he received divorce papers in one scene. However, the audience never got closure on that subplot. The editing of the episodes could have definitely been better.
With such a good cast and plot, the show is a mixed bag but an honest attempt at this sci-fi niche.