Jalsa is a highly engaging and unsettling moral drama as it is a captivating a gripping thriller. The film is in many ways an effective commentary on the easy way out for those in power, against the helplessness of the common man if front of the gigantic system. It also shows the hypocrisy of the so-called responsible sectors of society, whose ideology cannot stand when put to the test of a contradicting reality or circumstance.
Technically, the film is a delight. It is excellently shot, with slick cinematography, sound and camera work. The dialogue is very good but what's great, is the actual minimal use of it when the visuals offer greater insight into the development of the story and the characters' state of mind. The film is carried by two central female characters who are on opposite sides of the barricades.
Vidya Balan is in top form in a very difficult role which demands exactly what actresses of her calibre can give. Conflicted, confused, ridden with fury, worry and guilt, and constantly at the height of emotional pressure, Balan captures with sheer realism the multi-layered complexity of this grayish character, which most people would find highly unlikable while perhaps at the same time feel for her condition.
But it is Shefali Shah who gives the film its dramatic poignancy and makes what could have been just a thriller into a touching, involving human story. A fascinating actress with tremendous range, measure and the most resonant of facial expressions, her use of her eyes and sometimes just her presence alone achieves so much more than many other actresses ever could with tons of dialogue.
Both Balan and Shah are so immersed in their parts it would be surprising if they weren't emotionally drained after playing their respective parts. They are supported by a host of fantastic character actors, all of whom perform brilliantly. The legendary Rohini Hattangadi is also here and she shines in the little she's given. Jalsa is an entertaining and effective story well depicted on screen.