Jism-2, for good measure, opens with a Biblical reference – "the life of man upon earth is warfare
" – so that the audience does not miss the moral context of the drama.
But when it is Sunny side up with a voluptuous and well-endowed Leone using her body at the drop of a black bustier to get her point across in this steamy and slow-burning drama, it is actually a perfectly agreeable battle to wage.
Pooja Bhatt’s Jism 2, scripted by Mahesh Bhatt, isn’t quite the full-bodied sex flick that Leone’s presence in the cast might raise visions of: the liberal dollops of skin show, as is the norm in a Bhatt camp offering, are given a veneer of sustained sophistication.
Sunny Leone is cast as porn star Izna who, after a night on a hotel bed that establishes the lady’s enormous power over men, is hired by an intelligence agent, Ayaan Thakur (Arunoday Singh), and taken to picturesque Galle in Sri Lanka to infiltrate the secluded hideaway of a dreaded lawman-turned-assassin Kabir Wilson (Randeep Hooda).
Initially averse to taking up the risky job because the killer happens to be her ex-flame, Izna sees the offer as an opportunity to make the man pay for his sins, which includes vanishing from her life without warning after a short-lived but euphoric love affair.
What Jism 2 lacks by way of pace and thrills is amply made up for by the strikingly composed and lit frames, the generally taut editing, a first-rate performance from Hooda and, of course, the rampaging sex appeal of Sunny Leone, who struts around in lacy lingerie, flashing her ample assets and dishing out generous doses of the 'just do it' spirit.
However, because of the manner in which the sex scenes have been filmed, they are neither cringe-inducing nor overtly exploitative.
The film is a male voyeur's delight all right, but director Pooja Bhatt often erases the gender lines by presenting both the lead actors, too, in bare-bodied splendour.
On the flip side, Jism 2 fails to create the atmosphere of menace and foreboding that a dangerous cat-and-mouse game with a heartless annihilator should necessarily have generated. Even the sexual chemistry between the seductress and the two men seems somewhat laboured at times.
What saves the film from falling into a bottomless pit is a certain degree of serious-mindedness that is embedded in the screenplay.
Jism 2 goes beyond the confines of carnality to refer to bigger issues, political and polemical.
The darkest place in this universe is the heart of the delusional assassin who suffers mood disorders, has a book about Che Guevara on his armchair, quotes Jesus Christ ("Father, forgive them for they know not what they do") and wants to save the world from itself. But it is Kabir himself who needs deliverance from the gloom that envelopes his life.
The screenplay also touches upon the issues of terrorism, fear-mongering by arms manufacturers to boost their relevance in a violent world, and the corruption of those that wield the power to influence the destiny of millions.
Dialogue writer Shagufta Rafique, despite the occasional lapses into the clichéd ("Aur bhi gham hai zamaane mein…
") and the corny ("Terrorist ko maarna punya hai
"), lends a certain zing to the brew. She ensures that the appeal of Jism 2 isn’t just skin deep.
In an early scene, the female protagonist describes her burning desire as the scorching sands on the seashore and her lover's touch as the ocean that evaporates into thin air as it meets her. How often do you hear a line like that in an erotic thriller coming out of Bollywood?
Frequent allusions to nature underlines conversations in this garden fraught with temptations. The rogue cop, completely smitten by the temptress, sums up his feelings for the woman who's been sent to trap him by comparing her to a solitary tree in a desert. And, of course, he reminds her and the audience that her name – Izna – means radiance, the light that dispels the darkness that he represents.
Jism 2 is a dark film, but the production design (by Pooja Bhatt herself) and the luminous lighting do not belong to the 'doomed love' genre.
The film has several other bright spots: Nigam Bomzan’s outstanding camerawork, the songs composed by debutant Arko Provo Mukherjee and the restrained yet supercharged star turn by the ever-reliable Hooda.
This film is designed to be Sunny Leone’s ticket to a place in the Bollywood sun, but it isn’t quite love-all in her favour. Yet, Jism 2 has enough soul not be swamped by a curvaceous body. It is more than just another 'booby
' trap of a film.