JL50 opens within the distant village of Lava in West Bengal. Some youngsters are enjoying soccer on what seems to be like essentially the most elevated pitch in India. Two canines watch them. It’s simply one other day within the hills. Instantly, they hear one thing within the sky. Even the canines crane their necks upward. The enormous shadow of an airplane engulfs – and passes them. The youngsters dash to the place the sound takes them. Moments later, from the best vantage level of the village, they discover the smoking wreckage within the valley beneath. There’s maybe a narrative in how the sleepy lifetime of Lava will get disrupted by the official chaos to observe, however this isn’t that story.
There’s nothing extraordinary a few internet sequence opening with a plane-crash sequence. However it’s the visible design of this sequence that may nudge the viewer for 3 of the 4 episodes. Our notion of the plot – a real-world thriller in regards to the identification of this airplane – performs a giant function right here. When a CBI officer (Abhay Deol, as Shantanu) from Kolkata reaches the crash website together with his colleague (Rajesh Sharma, as Gauranga), he assumes the wreckage belongs to Flight AO26, an everyday business flight – carrying some essential politicians – that went lacking a day in the past. When information breaks that AO26 has been hijacked by militants from ABA (“Azaad Bengal Affiliation”), Shantanu discovers that the crashed aircraft is JL50. The one downside: JL50 didn’t take off from Kolkata. It took off from “Calcutta” in 1984 and went lacking. It is mindless, and as soon as the 2 survivors begin to recuperate, Shantanu makes an attempt to resolve this weird incident.
The premise is a riff on the notorious story of Pan Am Flight 914 – a aircraft that apparently took off from New York Metropolis in 1955 and landed at Miami 37 years later. The story was later revealed to be a large hoax; the tabloid that ran it was infamous for publishing fictional content material. However the most well-liked conspiracy theories featured a Bermuda-Triangle-style time-travel portal. JL50, too, initially alludes to the far-fetched risk of time journey. All the weather – a shady Quantum Physics professor (Pankaj Kapur), survivors from 1984 who haven’t aged, private gadgets from the Indira Gandhi period – level in the direction of the magical. However the design is intelligent: the author is aware of that the viewer is inherently inclined to search for causes that debunk a time-travel system in 2020. The sequence additionally is aware of that the “staging” of a time-travel setup is an equally engaging premise.
In consequence, there are clues that tease the pragmatism of human nature. For example, we suspect the authenticity of that opening scene due to the way in which it’s edited – no one really sees the aircraft crash, they solely see the wreckage (which might have been staged). When Shantanu interrogates the linked characters, the digicam purposely lingers on their faces for a split-second after he leaves, as in the event that they may be closet conspirators. The ABA, a communist outfit that calls for the discharge of their chief from jail in alternate for the AO26 hostages, seems to be solely able to executing such an elaborate staging – maybe as an emblem of the bygone time they signify. A JL50 survivor’s response to a cellphone within the hospital, too, feels just like the individual is pretending to look shocked. (Or possibly it’s a contented accident that the performer, who can be the producer, just isn’t an excellent actress).
That’s additionally why the protagonist, Shantanu, is a brooding however level-headed younger man in a story of kooky older individuals. We’re inspired to view the world by means of his cynical eyes, always trying and doubting the fantastical, decided to seek out logical solutions. He questions every little thing, and at all times has a wry grin on his face – an expression that Abhay Deol has confirmed to be adept at – whereas listening to witnesses. When his superstitious colleague suggests time journey, he rolls his eyes. When the pilot recovers and narrates her story from 1984, he sighs. You’d suppose Shantanu was extra of a Science man. However at one level throughout the investigation, he says “Scientists are artists too”: a transparent allusion to Science Fiction, the style we refuse to affiliate JL50 with. Finally, Shantanu’s private arc is essential to the leap of religion that JL50 takes. The decision is tacky however, dare I say, fairly transferring.
The detailing of the sequence helps. Kolkata is an efficient selection of setting. The cultural stillness of a metropolis that appears to be caught in time – apart from the garments, it’d be inconceivable to inform 1984 from 2020 – provides to the two-faced tone of the story. Getting Hindi movie actors like Abhay Deol, Piyush Mishra, Rajesh Sharma and Pankaj Kapur to play individuals of various levels of Bengali-ness is a performative sleight-of-hand trick. Mishra’s hamming offsets Kapur’s uncanny native gait, whereas Sharma’s eagerness offsets Deol’s creative calm. The little issues matter: Shantanu hurrying by means of a makeshift breakfast of limp toast after which forgetting his pockets is an indication that he was as soon as married; he isn’t used to being single once more. A chase takes place within the slender bylanes of an idol-sculpting space, an allegory for the God Advanced of the individual being chased. When a personality breaks right into a passionate monologue about why Indians are likely to worship slightly than query the fantastical, it additionally feels just like the filmmaker is asking his viewers to demystify the premise and look deeper.
The exposition within the remaining episode has wonky dialogue, nevertheless it’s a mandatory evil to promote an formidable story. In any case, a lot of JL50 second-guesses how we, the viewers, are conditioned to suppose. It waters the seeds of doubt in our heads. Magic is fake till confirmed true. A murals is mediocre till confirmed competent. And JL50 is all about proof – of the previous, of the longer term, and of a step in the fitting path.