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Jubilee Review: Starkly slow but immersive!

The Amazon Prime Video series stars Prasenjit Chatterjee, Aparshakti Khurana, Aditi Rao Hydari, Sidhant Gupta, Wamiqa Gabbi, and others.



Prasenjit Chatterjee in Jubilee


Creators: Vikramaditya Motwane, Soumik Sen

Director: Vikramaditya Motwane

Writer: Atul Sabharwal

Cast: Prasenjit Chatterjee, Aparshakti Khurana, Aditi Rao Hydari, Sidhant Gupta, Wamiqa Gabbi, Ram Kapoor, Shweta Basu Prasad, Nandish Singh Sandhu.

Streaming on: Amazon Prime Video

Stories set in the movie business are a personal favorite. Jubilee – an aptly titled series tells the story of the Hindi film industry around the time of India’s independence from the British. There’s a rising star, a diva, a star producer, an aspiring director, and a courtesan turned actress at the centre of the plot.

I have often been fascinated by the bygone era of the Indian film industry which I can experience only through stories. Although there were competition, jealousy, and ego clashes, the industry back then seemed to have a ‘character’. The stars/makers and media could communicate with each other without the ‘entourage’ that guards the actors of today. This possibility of gaining direct access, even if by a chance, is the thread that connects all the parallel tracks in Jubilee.

Roy Talkies is a big studio owned by Srikant Roy – played by a supremely charismatic Prasenjit Chatterjee. Srikant is married to a diva, a big star in her own right Sumitra Kumari (Aditi Rao Hydari). Binod Das (Aparshakti Khurana) is Srikant’s Man Friday who aspires to become an actor. Jay Khanna (Sidhant Gupta) is a playwright from Karachi who has to move to a refugee camp in Mumbai after partition. Another refugee is Niloufer Qureshi (Wamiqa Gabbi), a courtesan wanting to climb up the social ladder using her sexuality. She also aspires to become an actress. Ram Kapoor plays Walia, a film financier.

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It would be difficult to talk about the story without giving spoilers because very little happens in the first five episodes released by the streamer. The next four will drop on April 14.

Vikramaditya Motwane takes all the time in the world to set up his world within the world. The pace of Jubilee is starkly slow. In a way, this resonates with the pace at which movies are made in big studios. Whenever I have visited these big studios, I have noticed the silence/quietness amidst all the chaos that happens on a film set. Things move at a meandering pace while everyone is working towards getting things done quickly. It’s weirdly paradoxical. Motwane uses this quietness and slowness efficiently.

The world-building is remarkable with a top-notch production design. Most often, periodic dramas tend to look artificial because of the artificialness of the production design. Motwane is ably helped by Mukund Gupta and Aparna Sud to make the Jubilee world real and lived in. The last time I saw such finesse in an Indian creation was in Shoojit Sircar’s Sardar Udham.

Thankfully, it is not set in the 70s, so we’re spared of fake wigs of long hair. Other than Ram Kapoor’s Walia, I didn’t notice anyone wearing a wig. Costume design by Shruti Kapoor is another strong asset of Jubilee. The actors look comfortable being in those costumes as opposed to looking like mannequins as they do in most celebrated costume dramas.

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Jubilee is a slow burn. Alokananda Dasgupta’s sound design and Amit Trivedi’s music make up for the silence that otherwise haunts the characters. The editing style by Aarti Bajaj reminds you of old classics. And so does the opening credit sequence which has a different font style for each episode, if I’m not wrong. May be a homage to the creator’s favorite films’ opening credit sequences.

While Jubilee has an ensemble cast, Prasenjit Chatterjee and Sidhant Gupta steal the show with their performances. Rather they make their acting not look like they’re acting. You simply cannot take your eyes off when Prasenjit is on screen. He owns every scene by simply being there.

While Sidhant showed good potential in Inside Edge and Operation Romeo, he’s a revelation in Jubilee. There’s a certain ease about the way he behaves in front of the camera. That subtle modulation of voice in some key scenes is a work of a fine actor.

Aparshakti Khurana does his sincere best to play both Binod Das who becomes the star – Madan Kumar. This is Apar’s first heavy-duty role and the pressure is visible in his acting. One can understand that characters/people like Binod rely so much on external validation and trigger for something to happen in their life or be given importance. Although his character has the biggest arc, he’s not aided by strong writing.

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A striking Wamiqa Gabbi triggers your curiosity for a while in an otherwise predictable and seen-before character. Aditi Rao Hydari looks regal as always but doesn’t have much to do so far in the first five episodes. Ram Kapoor hams it up as required for the role. Shweta Basu Prasad as Binod’s wife Ratna Das brings a smile to your face every time she appears on the screen. There’s something strangely intriguing about her personality that you can’t help but be interested in.

As themes or stories, most of Jubilee is already seen or known. The rags to riches, the dichotomy of fame, unrequited love, etc. But Motwane treats everything with some freshness. While experimentation with the screenplay is a hit and a miss, Atul Sabharwal scores big with his dialogue. He makes the characters say things differently to give a fresh take on the above-mentioned already-seen stuff.

As a culture, we are terrible at archiving. Most of the celebrated film studios are on the verge of closing. Films and series such as Jubilee remain our only doorway to enter into that world. While Jubilee invites you to see its world set in a bygone era, it demands you to be patient with it. And if you’re willing, you will have a good time.