Salman Khan goes into messiah mode as he rescues innocent children from a terrorist outfit, returns a kidnapped baby to its harrowed parents, writes an exam paper for a handicapped student, and repeatedly takes down swarms of bad guys who dare stand in his way. He’s ‘being human’ – make that ‘superhuman’ – in director-brother Sohail Khan’s well-intentioned but frankly naïve drama Jai Ho.

Salman plays Jai, the neighborhood good Samaritan who shows up at a moment’s notice each time someone’s in any sort of trouble. But after a tragedy that occurs because of people’s general apathy towards each other, Jai encourages everyone he’s helped to repay three strangers with kindness, and to keep this “madat ki chain” going so as to make the world a better place.
 
 
It’s not a half-bad premise (happily ‘borrowed’ from the Kevin Spacey-starrerPay It Forward, though the film itself is a remake of the Telugu hit Stalin), but one that’s abandoned midway to make room for the numerous action sequences that dominate this movie. Presumably because Salman must break bones, wring necks, and punch chests every few minutes, Jai Ho turns into a gruesome revenge saga of sorts. So when goondas affiliated to a political party are brutally thrashed by Jai for harassing his sister, matters spiral into a full-blown war with a corrupt Home Minister (Danny Denzongpa).
 
To offer respite from the wall-to-wall punch ‘em-ups, there’s the inevitable romantic track, with newcomer Daisy Shah. Alas, her chemistry with the film’s leading man is colder than a frozen popsicle. And while she makes up for her complete lack of acting chops with her impressive dancing skills, it’s a shame elevator music is more memorable than the abysmal songs in this film.
 
To be honest, very little stays with you when you leave the cinema, aside from the unpleasant aftertaste that comes from being shamelessly manipulated. From exploiting limbless little girls, to showing us beggar children being assaulted, the film stops at nothing in its attempt to move you to tears. If your heart does go out, it’s to the few good actors who’re wasted by being made to stand around and participate in this silliness. The abundantly gifted Tabu, in the part of Jai’s sister, oozes grace despite the thankless scope of her role. And it’s a pity Nadira Babbar as Jai’s mother, and Mahesh Manjrekar as a kindly auto-rickshaw driver, didn’t have more substantial parts. Only pint-sized Naman Jain (of Chillar Party and Bombay Talkies) gets a few light moments to shine, even if they do mostly involve a running joke about the color of a young lady’s innerwear.
 
Aside from them, it’s as if every out-of-work actor in Salman’s zip code was offered a walk-on part: Ashmit Patel, Yash Tonk, Vatsal Seth, Nauheed Cyrusi, Tulip Joshi, Mahesh Thakur, Aditya Pancholi, Sharad Kapoor, even Sunil Shetty. It’s a whole bouquet of stinking violets.
 
Naturally then, it’s up to Salman Khan to hold it all together. He roars and fights and even weeps on cue. In one scene, he kicks an ambulance into motion. Closer to the end, he rips the shirt off his back for a mano-a-mano with another muscled hunk. It’s a committed performance, but he deserved a smarter film.
 
For all the references to the aam aadmi and the solutions it offers to inspire change, this film ultimately is about the victory of a man who lets his fists do the talking. Muddled message there.
 
I’m going with two out of five for Jai Ho. It might have its heart in the right place, but the brain appears to be missing.
 

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