Nam Ron’s One Two Jaga is on Netflix starting today, and I am so thankful for that.
There are films which in of themselves may not be perfect or remarkable from a technical perspective, but mark an important moment in a country’s psychological growth. I believe One Two Jaga is one of them. I missed its initial run in cinemas and actually tweeted some time back wishing it would come to Netflix, and when the news circulated that it was coming out today, I was overjoyed, not only because I can now watch it after hearing so many good things about it, but also because the story it reportedly carries has never been told, at least not in the mainstream.
Over and above the snow globe-sized world the characters inhabit (the meaning behind the English title, Crossroads, becomes evident about halfway through), what is clear is the respect that is given toward the subject matter and the individuals who inhabit it. This is a story long overdue in its telling, about a world that operates just under the paper-thin veneer of the civilisation we inhabit, of the corruption we always hear of, the cars we see stopped by the side of the road and the unnamed laborers who continue to give their sweat and sometimes lives for our comfort.
This is meant to be an uncomfortable film, and for me, it works. To many of us, while watching this, we will look at our companions knowingly and exchange platitudes of how we’ve always known of these things, even if we never speak of them. I know, because I said these things, myself.
We may flinch and tut and even feel sorry for the plight of the characters, but for most of us watching in comfort, the story weaving its way in high-definition on devices these workers will probably never see, it is just a story.
But stories like these must be told, and in increasing frequency, so much that in their telling they are elevated to more than cautionary tales for our spoiled and lucky children and definitely more than a benchmark for us to be thankful for.
There is room, I feel, for stories that disturb us, and remind us that it is all, in the end, down to sheer, cruel, luck. Perhaps once we have accepted that, we can be more human.