Director: Divyang Thakkar
Writers: Divyang Thakkar, Anckur Chaudhry (additional writer)
Cast: Ranveer Singh, Shalini Pandey, Boman Irani, Ratna Pathak Shah, Puneet Issar, Jia Vaidya
Released in theatres.
How far can you go to satirize the issue of female foeticide? Writer-director Divyang Thakkar creates one bizarre situation after the other in Jayeshbhai Jordaar as Jayesh (Ranveer Singh) sets out to save his wife Mudra (Shalini Pandey) and to-be-born daughter by escaping his tyrant father and patriarchal village. Their 8-year-old daughter accompanies them on their adventurous escape. The intentions are noble here. But the narrative seems contrived. I think in most satires there’s little scope for organic situations and dialogue. You’re trying to make a statement or give a message. In such cases, the characters and situations are created around that single thread of message as opposed to say a character-driven film that progresses more organically.
Jayeshbhai Jordaar is often farcical but is consistently watchable. The first half till the interval is particularly breezy and crisp. From the first scene itself, the characters and their dramatic needs are established. One can debate that it is still a man who is at the center of attention in a film based on the issues that women continue to suffer from even today. But what is the other way out? These women because of the oppression don’t even have a clue what freedom feels like. For them, survival is more important than revolt. And don’t you want men like Jayesh in life? Neither masculine is a problem, nor feminine. It’s their toxicity that is problematic.
The positives from Jayeshbhai Jordaar: Ranveer Singh plays Jayesh with total conviction. Beneath the props of Gujarati accent, mannerisms, and costume, he nurtures the soul of Jayesh. Jayesh represents a man who very much exists in a largely patriarchal Indian society but rarely makes it to mainstream cinema or news, especially as a protagonist.
Shalini Pandey looks confident and willing to do more as Mudra. The innocence on her face conveys her plight more than the words she speaks. Jia Vaidya as Jayesh and Mudra’s daughter is the most energetic performer of the lot. The character of the patriarch played by Boman Irani is one-dimensional. Although the actor does his best, the issue with the character is that the film laughs at his expense rather than fearing him. That pretty much makes you believe that Jayesh will eventually beat them all. To say that Ratna Pathak Shah is a great actor is a cliché. And like all cliches, it is true this time also. The change in her character in the climax of the film is sudden but one can predict that from the word go. To quote a cliched Hindi film dialogue, “Maa toh aakhir Maa hoti hai.”
Divyang Thakkar uses a lot of metaphors and doesn’t miss an opportunity to visually convey his message. My favorite moment of such metaphors was when Mudra drives the car in broad daylight for the first time and her ‘ghunghat’ keeps going off her head and she tries to keep it intact. But like I said, these moments look more planted than organic. Like another moment when Mudra tells Jayesh that during the night all the women of the village gather together to share their pain. The one who expresses her pain and agony is surrounded by all the men. Jayesh experiences this when he pours his heart in front of those women.
Also read: Thar Review: Impressive but tedious to watch
Sure, the situations are bizarre, the most bizarre one being Jayesh threatening to castrate himself if his father doesn’t let him escape from the village. The makers are aiming to create a sanitized and simplified social dramedy so that it is palatable for a wider audience. The film is ambitious on paper and a YRF production provides the scale to project that ambition. There are a plethora of ‘high-on-concept and sloppy-in-execution’ films released in the last few years. There is borrowed enthusiasm and pretentiousness in those films. The protagonist by nature wants to rebel or bring in a change.
Jayesh in this film is not a product of patriarchy but a victim himself of it. Via one of the many monologues (which somehow seem unavoidable in social dramedy), Jayesh also talks about being a real man. God knows how many definitions are there of what makes a man a ‘real man’. Well, that’s a conversation for another time. As for Jayeshbhai Jordaar, if you can play along with the farcical bits, it can be an entertaining experience because the film has its heart in the right place.