U/A: Comedy, drama
Dir: Divyang Thakkar
Cast: Ranveer Singh, Shalini Pandey
What piques my curiosity beyond what’s happening inside this film is how it must have come about? Did the filmmakers start out with a brief from the central government’s well-advertised campaign, as usual high on sloganeering, ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao’? Because we hear it in the dialogues as well, along with ‘Swachh Bharat’ elsewhere.
Was the attempt thereafter to pull off an entertaining, road-trip caper of sorts, with strong messaging on women’s emancipation — trying a bit too hard to make it seem a fun ride on the commercial/mainstream space?
With rock playing for background score, and a hip-hop track in the closing credits, Jayeshbhai Jordaar is essentially a rural film — set entirely in a Gujarati village, and therefore with much affluence around. In fact, the setting is so rural that it appears the characters in this film haven’t even visited a likely small town/district nearby, let alone big/metropolitan cities anywhere around.
The hero on whom the film is named — along with his lovely, deadly, young daughter (love this kid), and his locked-up wife — is on the run, from his dangerously patriarchal, powerful father (Boman Irani), because the caring husband’s checked on his phone, where in India are women likely to be treated best.
A village in Haryana is the top search result. Because there are no women left in that village, and so all the gabru jawans of marriageable age are bachelors.
How such a village is likely to be safest for women in general (unborn included) is hard to tell. The inspiration for this Haryana village itself is probably the maiden episode of Aamir Khan’s TV/talk show, Satyamev Jayate (2012) that featured the same gaon in Kurukshetra district, as you might recall.
Likewise there is talk of pappi/kiss (as against ‘jaadu ki jhappi’, from Rajkumar Hirani’s Munnabhai MBBS) as cure for male hate, directed against women of the house. The opening scene refers to the planet as a ‘gola’, like in Hirani’s PK. What follows this scene is a prominent scroll on the screen, “Prenatal sex determination is a punishable offence [‘in India’ isn’t added to the warning].”
This is because the young, pregnant wife in this film is going through an ultrasound scan. Not that they ask the gender of the unborn child. That info is usually passed on by doctors through obvious codes. If it’s a girl, the family will forcibly abort — she’s been through six such abortions.
Either way, I’m guessing the Censor Board inserted that public warning, which is a strange precedence to set. Such a scroll should likewise flash every time a character murders, attacks, even swindles someone on screen — those are “punishable offences” too, no? It’s tragic enough that beautifully composed frames (works of art) in desi films are similarly defiled with no-smoking cigarette pack warnings, every time a character lights up, or even gets a drink.
That said, the intent, hence ‘moral’ of this story/movie is neatly spelt out — if not a bit too obviously drilled in. Which is of course not why I had walked in to the theatre. That reason is clearer still — the lead actor Ranveer Singh. He plays Jayeshbhai, who’s Jordaar; perhaps a little like the character Jethalal from the TV serial Taarak Mehta Ka Ooltah Chashmah, that’s widely popular, in Gujarat in particular.
Goes without saying, this is Ranveer in an altogether believable (in a bush shirt), contemporary rural part, that you haven’t seen him perform before — holding it by the horns through his energy levels, that operate on a scale of their own anyway. This, after Khilji in Padmaavat, Kapil Dev in 83. It’s of course essential for an actor to go all over the place with his talent/career.
Just that a film going all over the place, alongside, isn’t equally great news. At its core, this is supposed to be a full-on farcical comedy. Only what lies beneath it, i.e. female foeticide, wife beating, etc, make it hard to stick to the intended humour, and the fantasies that follow.
The jokes run dry. The road-trip derails. Surely there are gems for moments — check out the highway bathroom scene, when you get the chance. Do these moments add up to a gem of a movie? The attention span simply drops after a point. The picture stretches on.
In a supposedly closed society that’s cent per cent full of hardcore, bloodsucking misogynists, Jayeshbhai somehow just grew up to be a warm empath, plus feminist, with no icons of his own to follow. He has important stuff to teach his audience—the same way we’ve seen Ranveer’s contemporaries, Rajkummar Rao, Ayushmann Khurrana, etc, get into similar modes in neatly contained, successful theatrical releases in the past.
This is Yash Raj’s first film since the pandemic — one of the few Bollywood studios to not bow down to the lure of OTT, that many believe is the new multiplex! I was happy to be in a sparsely crowded cinema. A better film would’ve been a bonus. Wanted to go, ‘Saaru chhe’ to this; ended up thinking, ‘Su chaale chhe ahiya, Jayeshbhai?’
Originally published at www.mid-day.com