Jagdish Tyagi aka Jolly (Arshad Warsi)has an old, rusted trunk for a desk where he locks his antique typewriter lest it gets stolen outside the high court in Meerut .With no case in hand, he hangs around wearing his LLB tag, everyday with several other lawyers, in his black coat. A common sight everywhere in India.
Willing to do anything for basic survival, he can defend a 16 year old who operates upon a pregnant woman or agree to parade as a shamed terrorist with his face hidden as a cover up for the police department's carelessness. In contrast, there is a highly successful and lawyer, Rajpal (Boman Irani) who in a matter of a 5 minute speech in the court, gets an acquittal for a rich client's son who has driven over 6 people sleeping on the streets. His reputation is such that the lawyers who fight with him to lose, have their careers made. When Jolly finds himself used by Rajpal in the 'hit and run' drive case, he stumbles a bit down the dishonest path, soon recovers and decides to fight the same case of drunken driving and get justice for the poor people. A decent, realistic look at the way the justice system functions including both lack of courtroom etiquette or air conditioning facility, follows.
This premise and Jolly's uncouth and almost unscrupulous but lovable character both make a quite promising beginning. Unfortunately, the story remains too simplistic, goes the clichéd way and is resolved rather easily, thereby rendering waste an interesting conflict . Everything rests on the performances by Arshad Warsi and Boman Irani as the lawyer and defendant. They do deliver but the plot limits their scope for further growth.
Arshad is well cast and gives a restrained and mature performance, particularly in moments of emotional outbursts. Saurabh Shukla is fabulous as the judge who ignores lawyers' games and lies but knows when it is time to call the shots. He does full justice to a particularly well written scene when he has to do everything to be heard in the courtroom he himself presides over. Mohan Kapoor and Mohan Agashe are equally convincing in their negative roles. Amrita Rao as the honest schoolteacher and Warsi's girlfriend fits in her rather clichéd part.
Before its release, writer/director, Subhash Kapoor's film was seen by Vidhu Vinod Chopra who hired him to direct the next Munnabhai sequel. One can see why. Jolly LLB, like the two Munnabhai films, has plenty of ideology and a common man character who is highly emotional. Subhash Kapoor displays a similar empathy as a writer, especially in dialogues.
Lyrics of a song "hans ki chaal" also by Subhash Kapoor are apt especially the words "...namaaz bakshwaane gaye the, roze gal pad gaye.."
Jolly LLB could have been a good satire on the judiciary system had it not taken the easier path of morals and emotions. However, tiny details make this film worth a watch, especially the way a Tajmahal paperweight is used.