Jai Ho is a mess, but at least it's forgettable

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Starring Salman Khan and Tabu. In Hindi with English subtitles. Rated 14A. Now playing

There is a long tradition of Bollywood films that highlight social injustices through the story of a downtrodden everyman whose good fight against the corruption of the elites is meant to inspire people both on and off-screen. Director Sohail Khan attempts this with Jai Ho and fails because the lead is unbelievable as a common man and the relentless violence overwhelms any message of social uplift.

Salman Khan is the eponymous Jai, a former soldier who is now a mechanic and the guy that everyone goes to when they are in trouble. These rescues often require him to brawl with multiple assailants. The film alternately speeds up and slows down the violence so we can focus on the sounds of crunching bones, thudding flesh, and the hero’s animalistic roaring.

Jai stumbles upon the idea of “paying it forward”. Instead of thanking him, he asks the people he saves to help three others and to tell them to do the same. (This is an idea that predates the Kevin Spacey movie of the same name by hundreds of years, but is represented here as new insight.) 

During the course of one of his rescues, he fights some thugs whose connections lead to corrupt politician Dashrat Singh (Danny Denzongpa). Things get personal when Singh’s forces target Jai’s sister Geeta (Tabu) and his love interest Rinky (Daisy Shah). (Incidentally, Khan is 48, Tabu who plays his older sister is 42, and Shah is 23.)

The film is what we expect to find in a Salman Khan vehicle. He romances the young ingénue in numerous dance numbers and showcases his muscles during its endless fights. The plot is disjointed, and despite the occasional tear, Khan stays within his limited range of expressions. The well-meaning social message is of no consequence given that the film itself is entirely forgettable.

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