Movie Review: Jai Ho (2014)

JaiHo0.5 Stars (out of 4)

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Jai Ho is as lazy and lacking in self-awareness as a movie can be. It ignores its own shallow grasp of morality to promote the message of every recent Salman Khan movie: the answer to government corruption is a single, violent man.

Just how shallow is the take on morality in Jai Ho, a remake of a Telugu movie (Stalin) based on a Hollywood movie (Pay It Forward)? The notion of “paying it forward” — you help three people, then they each help three more people, and so on — is developed by a middle schooler in the Hollywood version, and by a man in his late forties in Jai Ho.

Of course it’s good to do nice things for other people. But the characters in Jai Ho talk about it so damned much, it’s as though the filmmakers think they invented the idea. “Generosity and helpfulness can benefit individuals and society? Who knew? Write forty minutes of dialogue to belabor the point!”

The title character, Jai (Salman Khan), who’s apparently a professional doer-of-favors, following his expulsion from the army, tries to popularize the notion of “paying it forward.” Everything is fine until his mom tells him that some people may not wish to participate, and that he shouldn’t be disappointed by that.

Jai’s realization that his idea may not be universally embraced causes him to lose his mind. In a blind rage, he attacks a guy harassing a street urchin. The guy just happens to be connected to a corrupt politician who winds up trying to murder Jai’s family. The situation is resolved by Jai fighting dozens of guys single-handedly and Suniel Shetty plowing through traffic in a tank.

Let’s get this straight: Jai’s responds to learning that there are mean people in the world by going on a violent rampage, endangering his family and friends and any unfortunate motorists who get in the way of Suniel Shetty’s tank. Way to make the world a better place, Jai!

What’s even more depressing is that violence really is Jai’s only recourse to stop the corrupt bureaucrat, played by Danny Denzongpa. The only evidence of systemic political change as a result of Jai’s gory heroics is that another politician — played by Mohnish Bahl — decides to look the other way.

The movie relies on emotional pandering in place of solid storytelling. Producer-director Sohail Khan trots out handicapped kids anytime he wants to bring the audience to tears and soldiers when he wants to stoke the fires of patriotism. Lest the audience fail to grasp the cinematic shorthand, there are musical cues and sound effects to let them know what emotions they are supposed to feel.

As with most of Salman Khan’s recent roles, his character’s only flaw at the beginning of the movie is that he doesn’t yet have a girlfriend. Daisy Shah is shoehorned into the story to fill the love interest role, even though she has nothing to do with the main plot. She’s never imperiled because of her relationship with Jai, she doesn’t partake in Jai’s do-gooder scheme, and she disappears during the climax.

There is exactly one good thing about Jai Ho, and that is Naman Jain as Jai’s young nephew, Kabir. He’sย legitimately funny, and he’s by far the best actor in the bunch. Jai Ho should’ve made Kabir the main character, borrowing more from Pay It Forward and less from Stalin. That might’ve been a good movie.


35 thoughts on “Movie Review: Jai Ho (2014)

  1. nav

    Hi Kathy, saw jai ho and after that read your review. All I can say is lol… your review is humorous especially the last part. I think dishkiyaaoon (bullet firing sound) should be good. What do you think?

    1. Kathy

      Thanks, nav! And thanks for explaining what the title of Dishkiyaoon means. I think it looks okay, but I hope to be pleasantly surprised by it.

  2. mayanknailwal

    Fab review.
    Jai ho is just what I expected it to be.
    A pure garbage benefiting the political atmosphere in India throwing a hype of showcasing a great idea for society

    It was just like Salman promoting for his BeingHuman charity and showing his regular Hulk like punching abilities and that too with more cartoonish screaming.
    A bad beginning of 2014 with the first blockbuster being a trash!

    and what do you think kathy, shouldn’t Salman just avoid doing such masala films now? Its really enough now! Hmn?

    1. Kathy

      Hi, mayanknailwal! It’s so funny that Salman is supposed to be a “common man.” Sure, he looks just like the mailman, or the cable guy, or the guy who works at the shop on the corner. (rolling my eyes)

      Like you said, Salman’s movies have become predictable. The audience for this type of film isn’t going to grow any larger, so he needs to branch out if he wants to keep gaining popularity. Step one is for Salman to accept the fact that he’s nearly fifty years old. How much more interesting and tense would Jai Ho have been if Kabir was Jai’s son rather than just his nephew?

      1. mayanknailwal

        That would have had made a difference rather than portraying the same Salman in 50’s kicking a 100men at a single time
        I hope he realises soon and try a different genre.
        Anyways, thanks for replying ๐Ÿ™‚

        And a personal compliment for you, you have a charming smile.

  3. Deepak C.

    Oh no! I’m a huge Salman fan — although I fully admit that at least half of his recent output has been terrible — and I was hoping so much that this would be a return to form. I guess there’s a reason there hasn’t been too much press in anticipation of this movie. The publicity machine has been oddly quiet on Jai Ho compared to the Dabangg films and Ek Tha Tiger.

    Will still hopefully check this out on Tuesday during the local theater’s discount night, but otherwise I guess it can wait for a DVD rental. Bummer ๐Ÿ™

    1. Kathy

      Discount night is the way to go, Deepak. On the positive side, there are plenty of unintentionally funny moments. Try to keep track off how many times Salman breaks through a set of doors. I think it’s around eight times, give or take a few. The little kid in the movie is legitimately really funny.

  4. nitinraj59

    I l tel you a story Kathy that has a beter plot than ths movie:

    There was a king.
    There was a queen.
    Both got married.
    And stayd hapily ever after.


    1. Kathy

      Nitinraj59, you should pitch this to Sohail Khan. You’ve already written a complete script for Salman’s next movie! ๐Ÿ˜‰

  5. Ehinome Okojie

    @ the beautiful Kathy, is your review not harsh, different strokes for different folks, this film is
    a frenzy among theatre audiences in India > 85% have liked it with average score of about
    72% compared with > 57% and 49% conventionally, i guess.
    The problem is that these stars overestimate their stardom, after delivering 5 back to back
    domestic blockbusters, this will end up as an average or marginal hit film for exhibitors.
    Even in a star driven industry like bollywood, i sometimes feel that box office strength is a
    relative quality, I mean if there are stars called A-Z. May be now my favourite are B,G,U
    and i watch them most of the time, and may be G is in the top 3 of most viewers, a time comes
    when B,U,A are my favourites and G disappears from most persons list. G will start to struggle
    to get hits. May be this high rating shows us that 1. only live hard Salman fans watched this
    2. these fans watched it at the cheapest possible fare at single screens.
    As per exhibitors, a superhit in Mumbai and below average in most circuits, distributors in Tamil and Telugu regions may become beggars in a short time.
    Love reading your reviews, but this time the bhojpuri guys dont agree with you.

    1. Kathy

      Thanks for the compliment, Ehinome! The thing about Salman is that he doesn’t fare as well overseas as other superstars, primarily because of the type of movies he makes. I think his brand of “one man takes on the system by force” action film is more appealing in India than in other countries where citizens have greater faith in their respective justice systems. Obviously, he’ll continue to have a great career for a long time to come, but with a gradually diminishing, more localized audience base.

  6. Ehinome Okojie

    Please rate this Joke
    Wanted (Wanted)
    Veer (Wanted 2)
    Dabangg (Wanted 3)
    Ready (Wanted 4)
    Bodyguard (Wanted 5)
    Ek Tha Tiger (Wanted 6)
    Dabangg 2 (Wanted 7)
    Jai Ho (Wanted 8)

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  20. Monika Sulik

    I am trying to get my head round Salman Khan (somehow I’ve managed to watch quite a lot of Shahrukh Khan and Aamir Khan films, but barely any Salman Khan ones) and after watching this I’m starting to wonder if I want to get my head round him :]
    This is basically a glorification of the idea that if a man feels he is right, then it’s great if he expresses himself violently through vigilantism. I haven’t squirmed like this in a long time *sigh*
    I’m interested in seeing Sultan, Bajrangi Bhaijan and maaaybe Ek Tha Tiger, but I’m a bit scared now ๐Ÿ˜‰ Are all of those in a similar vein?

    1. Kathy

      Monika, this is one of the greatest mysteries for recent Bollywood converts: what’s the big deal about Salman? (especially given how charismatic Aamir and Shah Rukh are by comparison.) I started watching Hindi films during the mid-2000s — the low point of Salman’s career — but even since then, he hasn’t made any movies that I’ve loved. Some are okay, but he seems to play the same type of character over and over (he plays a version of it in Jai Ho). I like the way I described his character type in my Sultan review:
      “Salmanโ€™s celluloid enemies are almost always external, be they villains or just obstacles in his way. Salmanโ€™s characters are morally perfect from the get go, so no character growth is required to conquer said obstacles.”

      I think a lot of Salman’s continuing appeal for his fans is good will built up in his heyday in the 1990s, when he was a trimmer, more romantic hero. For people like us who weren’t his fans when he was at his peak, I’m not sure we’ll ever truly “get” his appeal. Also, Salman’s done a lot of bad stuff over the years that’s easier to overlook if you already loved him.

      As for which of his recent films are worth watching (I haven’t delved into his back catalog), Sultan is actually pretty good because it upends his typical character as the story progresses, and the supporting cast is GREAT. Dabangg is also fun because of the self-aware way it plays with his righteous vigilante role. Bajrangi Bhaijaan is decent, too, but it’s the one I’d be least likely to rewatch of these three.

      1. Monika Sulik

        Oh yeah, I was wondering about Dabangg – forgot I was curious about that one (although admittedly in part because of Vinod Khanna, just as Tabu had some impact on me watching Jai Ho).
        I’ll make sure to have a go at Sultan then!

        I started watching Bollywood around the mid-2000s as well, although a lot less initially and had some very long breaks.
        I kind of get Salman’s charm maybe sort of sometimes. Like he has a guest appearance in Saawariya for example and IMO he’s really good in that. But I’ve so far struggled with him as the hero and with his brand of machoismo. It might be my bad luck, but as the hero he seems to be selling things like violence and misogyny most of the time :-/ Hum Aapke Hain Koun (1994), which I believe was one of his biggest 90s hits, is etched in my memory as the most sexist Hindi film I’ve ever seen (it even includes a scene which straight out condones domestic violence).

        I also find it a bit weird that he has purposefully (apparently) avoided villain roles and such.

        1. Kathy

          Yeah, his brand of machismo is especially icky knowing that he hit and terrorized Aishwarya Rai while they dated. You know it was bad if she felt compelled to go public about it, and more than a decade before she could rely on support from #MeToo allies. His whole “good guy” shtick — not playing villains, talking about his Being Human charity whenever he’s in trouble — is gross.


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