The week that Jism 2 opened in India, mobs burned an effigy of director Pooja Bhatt, protesting the salacious content of the film (whose title means "body" in Hindi and rhymes with "kiss 'em"). It would be understandable if a similar mob of disgruntled movie critics is planning to do the same.
By turns wooden, hysterically overemotional and laugh-out-loud bad, Jism 2 will always be remembered as the film that launched Indo-Canadian porn star Sunny Leone in Bollywood. Beyond that, the film is a forgettable thriller with risible dialogue, an outlandish premise and a sex quotient that won’t shock anyone with a cable TV subscription.
Bhatt and her father, flamboyant producer Mahesh Bhatt, are claiming that this movie boldly breaks through India’s stodgy old Victorian morals, but all of the film’s impact has been felt on the streets outside theaters rather than at the box office: Despite making headlines around the world for a promise of racy content and its accompanying controversies, Jism 2 hasn’t been able to recover from a sharp drop at the Indian box office after its strong opening.
Among the diaspora audience in the United States, Jism 2 hasn’t made an impact at all. This might be because overseas Indians know they can find far better and more titillating material elsewhere, but it could also be because its distributor has had to limit its release to Indian American theaters since no mainstream chain would touch it with a 10-foot pole.
The story is a predictable potboiler about top-secret Indian government agent Ayaan (Arunoday Singh), who hires Izna, a porn actress, as a honey trap to trick a wanted terrorist who is also her ex-boyfriend, Kabir (Randeep Hooda), into giving up a computer file containing the names of his accomplices. It’s a formula: kiss, kiss, bang, bang, oil massage, death scene and a few songs -- including one featuring the terrorist playing an anguished cello solo.
Pooja Bhatt’s directorial skills may be debatable, but the woman knows how to cast a movie. Hooda, first discovered by Mira Nair and cast as an Australian hottie visiting India in Monsoon Wedding, smolders to the best of his ability in the role of a violent criminal whose only vulnerability is his love for Izna. Singh also turns in a smart, capable performance as the heroic agent who also ends up falling in love with the brunette beauty, though both actors are limited by a messy script.
Obviously, Leone is the selling point of the entire exercise. Sporting a wardrobe that can best be described as Frederick’s of Bollywood (tight animal print pants and macramé tops, cleavage-bearing mini-dresses and six-inch heels), Leone does her best to convince the viewer that men are willing to die for the chance of a night in her arms.
The kerfuffle over Jism 2’s movie posters (banned in Mumbai) and the effigy burning proves that Mahesh Bhatt and his team have mastered the art of PR. Now, if his decades-old production house could only put as much energy into cranking out a watchable movie, they might be on to something.
Cast: Sunny Leone, Arunoday Singh, Randeep Hooda, Arif Zakaria
Director: Pooja Bhatt
Screenwriters: Mahesh Bhatt, Shagufta Rafique
Producers: Pooja Bhatt, Dino Morea
Editor: Devendra Murdeshwar
Music: Arko Pravo Mukherjee, Mithoon, Rushk & Abdul Bassith Saeed
Not rated, 129 minutes