Story: An unfortunate incident turns renowned journalist-single mom Maya Menon (Vidya Balan) and her cook Ruksana’s (Shefali Shah) lives upside down. Through their predicament, Jalsa compels one to look within and challenges our notions of truth, morality and survival.

Review: Jalsa is a slow burn, intense drama that unfolds like a psychological thriller. It quietly observes the intricacies of human behaviour when pushed over the edge.

Can humanity brave the storm of survival? Can circumstances override truth and conscience? Heath Ledger’s iconic line as the Joker comes to mind. “When the chips are down, these 'civilized people'? They'll eat each other.” Do they?

A gripping portrayal of guilt and self-reflection, Suresh Triveni puts inner conflict at the core of his story. He cleverly abstains from letting his two lead characters verbally confront each other and there lies its brilliance. One swamped with guilt, shame and remorse. The other, stifled with pain and anger.

Between these two women, their deafening silences and muted chaos, we are compelled to find ourselves and their story. Jalsa doesn’t resort to theatrics to get its point across. However, at one point, you do feel a tad restless wondering if this film might turn into a crime drama-police procedural.

But despite certain loose ends on that front, Triveni sticks to exploring the psyche of his female leads, the everyday challenges of working women. They could be the privileged working class residing in high-rises, single moms or those from lower economic strata; everyone survives in their own way.

The story juxtaposes vulnerable lead characters — two women in their 40’s (brave rare feat for Hindi films). They belong to different social backgrounds but are bound by resilience and motherhood. Their inner turmoil and situational moral compass compels you to think. In a film that centres on the palpitating tension between the two, Vidya Balan and Shefali Shah are outstanding.

It’s emotionally gratifying to watch these powerful actresses show what they are made of. Their eyes speak the words their voice withhold. Somewhere, they are similar in spite of their differences. Two scenes in particular stay with you. Shefali exploding with anger and Vidya watching the world around her pass her by as she grapples with reality. It's nice to see acclaimed Hindi and Marathi film actress Rohini Hattangadi (as Maya's mother) back on the screen.

She lends gravitas and wisdom to the proceedings. The film is technically and aesthetically strong and that also contributes to stirring up emotions. Triveni cleverly turns a lavish Mumbai apartment overlooking the sea into a haunting claustrophobic space of emotions and turmoil. Hues of blue, sounds and silences have a language of their own and they are most effectively used here.

The roaring of lonely waves, flying curtains against the sea, grey skies, and an empty balcony; there’s an underlying melancholy that follows each frame of the film. With a runtime of a little over two hours, Jalsa, a captivating drama with a complex moral center, keeps you on the edge of your seat for most part of the film. This one’s a must watch, all the more for its terrific climax.