A film review: 'Jagat'

Origin: Malaysia · Language: Tamil
Director & writer: Shanjhey Kumar Perumal
Release: December 17, 2015 · Genres: Crime, drama

Casts: Harvind Raj, Jibrail Rajhula, Kuben Mahadevan,
Tinesh Sarathi Krishnan, Senthil Kumaran Muniandhy,
Aahmuu Thirunyanam, Marup Mustapah, Perakas Rajaram

More info: IMDb

Sorry not sorry for not being affected by the Force Fever. Honestly, I'm one of those who only know Star Wars through OTHER than its films. Enough of that. Let's talk about Jagat now.

Despite my flair to sometimes delve into the weird, edgy, and epic cinematic experience, I also prefer to see films which reflects the messed up reality of a certain society sometimes, ESPECIALLY in a Malaysian context. I thought I would NEVER see such films to ever come to fruition, now that Namewee's Banglasia, a film that has such criteria, is now struggling to get local audiences to see it for free on the Internet due to the freaking Censorship Boards' twisted, confusing, and highly vague censorship guidelines which banned the said film... until this film popped up outta nowhere and was released to the masses totally untouched (read: no cuts whatsoever, except maybe for some cuss words; but it doesn't bother my viewing experience really). Thank God! Also, this is my first ever experience in watching a feature length Tamil movie from start to finish (since Tamil films are not really my muse, maybe because I haven't found the right film to watch and the ones on TV are just... ergh...?), let alone on a big screen! I guess it's because of its realism approach and not the mainstream musical shit? Maybe.

Wow. This year's films seems to highly challenge my review code, and this film is no exception. This is a local film, but is made primarily for Malaysian Indian audiences; hence, its language and primary setting being a Malaysian 1990's Indian community. I'm not definitely sure whether the actors of this film are a big thing or are entirely newbies both in the Malaysian mainstream or the Malaysian Indian entertainment sector. Pfft. Screw that. In this film, story is king, feels are strong, and visuals are dandy candy. Also, the race card is totally irrelevant; despite being set in the Indian community, the issues depicted are actually faced by most Malaysians during the time in my opinion, thanks in part to its focus on the side effects of globalisation toward the poorer sections of the country, spearheaded by Tun Dr. M, that forces them to do despicable things.

I can tell ya that this is another (possibly) limited edition gem dug by local film fans who know their stuff! And this is the director's first feature film effort after so many short films and documentaries.

Okay, then. I hope this review can convince you skeptics over local productions which fight really hard to become fully awesome these days, as this is the most grounded gangster film ever produced so far, EVER, that feels and presented more as a slice of life film than anything else!


I am honestly having a hard time trying to summarise its plot, so I'ma just snag what Cinema Online just wrote about it:

Set in early 1990s, which is the critical period for Malaysian Indian, who are forsaken by the estate owners and are forced to move to the cities and survive under harsh circumstances. The story follows a mischievous 12-year-old boy named Appoy and his relationships with his father, Maniam, and his uncles, former drug-addict Bala and local gangster Dorai.

So... THAT'S what this film is about. Thanks, Cinema Online!

So yeah. As far as the dialogues go, the actors based their performances on realism grounds; the dialogues are simple, and sometimes even highly allegorical and philosophical without being too preachy or forced, all while making references appropriate to the film's setting. In the acting department? Also on realism grounds. Maybe except for the fight scenes by the adults. Appoy's (Harvind Raj) fight scenes against the bullies feels and looks way more realistic in comparison than the fights involving Dorai a.k.a. Mexico (Jibrail Rajhula), which is a bit disappointing. So there's that about the acting and dialogues.

Characterisation wise, thanks in part to the director's knack to put on the full display on what our local Indians actually do in their daily lives, the director and screenwriter is able to inject these predicaments to influence the characters' motivations and activities. That is exactly what Appoy is hinted to do and what his uncle Mexico is already doing as their stories are told together in a parallel plane. This totally reminded me on how the first season of Netflix's Marvel series Daredevil, the latest story in my recent memory, approaches the rise of its hero and villain in their respective moral alignments. In this film's case though, in my opinion, sees the main character, Appoy, descending to the dark side while Mexico decides to embrace the light side due to the series of unfortunate events that constantly befell his family; a total contrast on how the main adversaries in Daredevil's first season is depicted. Wait... did I just relate this film to Star Wars AND Daredevil, both owned by Disney? Damn it! That was uncalled for, really. After all been said about the characterisation of its main characters, the fact remains that the filmmakers totally know their shit when it comes to character development to ALL of its characters including the supporting ones and extras, by NOT shying away in displaying every inch of their immoral acts such as alcohol drinking, drug use, beating people up for money, and even child abuse by both parents and educators, as well as the little things on their life of hardships in terms of daily needs and necessities to add tension to their life of pressure. Kudos to that!

In terms of atmosphere, they managed to obscure most of the modernity to perfectly capture the  feeling of a 1990's Malaysia through its location of some under-developed town somewhere and some of its props... except for TWO things; the road tax (or some kind of sticker) in one scene of the film where Mexico and one of the characters were taking a stroll in a car is clearly from 2015, and from another angle of the same shot, there's a tiny camera attached to the top of Mexico's part of the car door (in this case though, it's a technical goof). But all is forgiven. After all, they got that big ass 'handphones' to talk to each other! Thanks to that, I'm ready to forgive those really trivial faults to an otherwise a laudable effort in capturing the days where domestic and educational punishment is starting to get into the nerves of the community depicted in the film despite the majority of the Hindus there believed in the old "mother, father, teacher = God" Indian saying, and such violence can only be tolerated in the gang world, since, hey, it's a dirty business... and violence is dirty, man!

And God, the music; the sweet, sweet music! It's freaking trippy, and perfectly captures the chaos that lingers within the minds of the community and each of the characters in the film! And this is honestly my first time hearing Space Gambus Experiment's sound; I honestly never heard of their music before despite having to heard of them multiple times before, and I gotta say, again... the filmmakers also know their shit about music that could captivate the film's audiences to be further immersed into the film's world.

Cinematography, wise? Wow. The lighting, particularly during that epic Mexico fight scene in the alley of sorts (which is featured in the film's trailer), is very beautiful and pretty film noir-ish, and is definitely the perfect entry for Mexico's first official foray into the triad business. On other parts, the nature scenery (which also include the obligatory nelayan setup), the framing of each building inside many of the shots, are just spot on, and perfectly captures the feel of a struggling Indian community within the vast Malaysian society comprising of different races, most of whom were former estate workers. Also, these shots sometimes just doesn't need 'narration.' A truly filmic masterpiece. The most powerful of all? Trash... trash everywhere! Poor fellows! I can definitely say that this is an artsy crime film! Really!

And, that's all folks! You know what to do now, don't cha? Spread this around! You must watch this! Don't let it disappear too soon! Like the ill-accepted Nota and Bunohan in its own country, I can betcha that this could just be the next film in consideration of an Oscar-worthy nominee for best foreign film, much like Liew Seng Tat's Men Who Save the World / Lelaki Harapan Dunia (fun fact: one of LHD's actor also appeared in Jagat!), or the very least, wins the heart (and money, insya-Allah) of cinema lovers all around the world. If anything, this film is harsh in its depiction on a poverty-stricken side of the Indian community in Malaysia, but it certainly did NOT demonize it in any way: it has a goal and a responsibility to attend to in regards to their hopes for a better living in Malaysia.

Help our brothers out. Catch it THIS INSTANT if you have to. It's a pretty damn good film!

P/S: This film is rated 18. Do NOT bring kids under that age along! 

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