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|July 14, 2000||
Terror stalks the JungleAparajita Saha
An ominous premonition of evil and a lingering sense of foreboding aptly sum up the menace exuded in Ram Gopal Varma's Jungle. The lush foliage, wrapping the terrain beneath in darkness, and the predatory dangers lurking within, provide a convincingly threatening backdrop for Varma to unleash the primeval malevolence of man.
Like the peaceful day before the nightmare, the movie unfolds with two lovers, Anu (Urmila Matondkar) and Sidhu (Fardeen Khan), daydreaming about their life together. Fate (and the demands of the script) takes Anu, Sidhu and Anu's family on a holiday to a forest resort. And all unknowing, they enter the realm of the ruthless Durga Narayan Chowdhury (Sushant) and his band. Narayan's curriculum vitae, for those interested, began tamely enough with petty acts of sandalwood and ivory smuggling, before he graduates into a purveyor of mass terror.
The two groups meet, in circumstances fraught with tension and danger. Narayan Chowdhury holds the motley group of vacationers hostage, demanding in exchange the release of one of his men, imprisoned by task force commander Shiv Raj (Sunil Shetty).
Shiv Raj's mission in life is to capture the dreaded terrorist, and quite a few of his soldiers have already been sacrificed on the altar of that particular ambition.
To add fuel to the incendiary mix, Narayan Chowdhury develops an obsession for Anu. And this fascination with, and desire for, the unattainable sets off a chain of violence that ends -- inevitably -- in destruction.
The above storyline, trite as it is, does not convey the frenetic pace of storytelling and the raw, animal magnetism the movie exudes.
Ram Gopal Varma's speciality is using his characters to strike sparks off each other, and getting his cast to deliver credible performances. Jungle is no different. The eclectic assortment of people adds to the richness of the film, while the fact that most of the cast is relatively unknown frees Varma from the need to adhere to existing stereotypes attached to the protagonists.
Fardeen redeems himself, after the disaster that was Prem Aggan, while Urmila reaffirms her credentials in the histrionics department. With this movie, Sunil Shetty is finally initiated into the school of acting, as he turns in a restrained, controlled performance. But the real stars of the movie are the non-heroes.
Sushant (who made his debut in Varma's Satya) is terrifyingly real as the man without a conscience. Theater veteran Makrand Deshpande is impressive as resort owner Doraiswamy. Rajpal Yadav haunts you, with eyes that convey a million emotions, while Kashmira Shah finally dares to act more and bare less.
Sandeep Chowta's music brings welcome relief to tension fraught moments, the score fitting seamlessly into the mood of the film. Cinematographer Vijay Arora captures the sinister beauty of the dense surroundings. And above all, Ram Gopal Varma plays on his story, and his cast, to create a slick, fast-paced film that has his stamp all over it.
Jungle is a movie where the violence is believable, the tension palpable, the emotions credible and the performances real.
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