Director: Raj Mehta
Writers: Anurag Singh, Rishabh Sharma
Cast: Neetu Kapoor, Anil Kapoor, Varun Dhawan, Kiara Advani, Maniesh Paul
I think the term ‘family entertainer’ w.r.t movies is solely a Hindi film thing. Surely, it has got to do more with the biz than the show in showbiz – to attract more people. Reasons why the Indian audience goes to theatres to watch a movie, is a subject for an interesting thesis. One of the weirdest reasons that I have heard is that “He (film’s hero) may not be a good actor but he is a down-to-earth man. That’s why I watch his films.”
My generation has grown up with monumental family entertainers from Rajshri Productions, Yash Raj Films, and Dharma Productions who are the producers of this film. The film, earlier titled Happy Anniversary before Karan Johar gave the film its current title, revolves around two marriages, uh, divorces. Kuku (Varun Dhawan) and Naina (Kiara Advani) are dealing with the demanding dynamics of modern-day marriage. A Punjabi couple staying in Canada – the setting is familiar and the makers quickly get to the point. Both Kuku and Naina want a divorce. Both, Varun and Kiara have a certain likeability as their characters and their chemistry makes you wish that they stay together.
They come back to Patiala for Kuku’s sister Ginny’s wedding. They decide that they will announce the news of their divorce to their parents after the wedding. But Naina has got a new job offer for which she will have to go to New York. So, the couple has to break the news early. On a drunken night, Kuku’s father Bheem (Anil Kapoor) tells him that he wants to divorce his mother Geeta (Neetu Kapoor). What follows is a madcap ride of events and revelations.
Films like these are about those 4-5 key scenes. Everything else is added to give those scenes some context and hopefully meaning. The key scenes in Jugjugg Jeeyo are: When Anil tells Varun that he wants to divorce Neetu. When Varun and Kiara have an intense argument about their failing marriage (the best written/acted scene in the film). When Neetu tells Kiara about how relationships fall apart involving the takeaway line from the film “Rishta tootne ki koi ek wajah nahin hoti. Bohot si adhoori ladaaiyon ki thakaan hoti hai, bas.” There are a couple of more scenes but will spare you from the spoilers.
Jugjugg Jeeyo is a well-packaged Dharma film. So, the production design, costume design, and hair & makeup design are all chakachak. Often when I watch films like these, the film geek in me can’t help but think of a line of dialogue from Zoya Akhtar’s Luck By Chance (2009) where Alyy Khan tells Rishi Kapoor, “Bhai Sahab aap picture ki mounting toh dekhiye.” Anyway.
To be frank, I was a little skeptical about watching Jugjugg Jeeyo as its trailer didn’t really appeal to me. But these days I’m allowing myself to try and watch films with different lenses. I think the best way to watch any film is to watch it with a clean slate and an open mind. Because that way you can see the film for what it really is. Maybe that’s the way you can write an unbiased review, no? because these days, film reviews have more propaganda in them than films do. Anyway.
The life of Jugjugg Jeeyo is Anil Kapoor and his infectious energy. Only a star could make such roles work. Anil owns his character and space. He and Varun have natural father-son chemistry. Films like these are about moments and without chemistry, you can’t achieve the desired effect. No matter how quirky your dialogue is, it will fall flat without chemistry between the actors.
Director Raj Mehta has managed to keep the over-enthusiastic Varun Dhawan from going haywire and manages to bring out a controlled performance. Varun’s Kuldeep aka Kuku shows the plight of many Indian young men who are stuck in the dilemma of ‘Be a Man’ – who have been conditioned to be the provider and protector. The problem has got to do more with this conditioning than it is about the male ego.
Kiara Advani shows the sparks of a promising performer again after her previous Dharma outing Shershaah. I hope she gets meatier parts to play more often. Neetu Kapoor makes a worthy comeback as Geeta. This part needed an authoritative voice and poise which the veteran actress lends so beautifully. Maniesh Paul and Tisca Chopra are entertaining in their supporting acts. I may be wrong but I suspect that Prajakta Koli is casted to encash her YouTube/influencer fan following, like Carry Minati was casted in Runway 34 which starred Ajay Devgn and Amitabh Bachchan no less. Hindi film stars have been appearing on the channels of almost every popular YouTuber or influencer in the country before the film’s release. Is this the only way to tap into the ‘youth’ rather ‘youthiyas’ demographic? Is it a sign of lack of belief in your own films?
The songs, there are quite a few, in Jugjugg Jeeyo didn’t hold my attention. The energetic Nach Punjaban song is poorly edited. Many shots in that song are cut too late. Film’s one-liners are its strongest suit. There is some WhatsApp humor and it is duly credited. Making a whacky film about a serious issue is a tricky thing. Director Raj Mehta (Good Newzz), considering the film was shot across two waves of covid and lockdowns, manages to maintain the consistency of the narrative and performances. Of course, we have seen mainstream popcorn entertainment films on divorces, infidelity, and marriages before. But there’s something about Jugjugg Jeeyo that just clicks. The two-and-a-half-hour film goes by like a breeze.
Director Raj Mehta’s debut feature Good Newzz did massive numbers at the box office. I had watched it much later when it came on OTT. The film was patchy in parts but entertaining. There were the jitters of the first-time director in that film. But Jugjugg Jeeyo is a more composed film. God knows how many tacky films have been made in this genre. Good Newzz and Jugjugg Jeeyo come as reassuring experiences. Sometimes, all that you need is a zany and funny film.
Maybe the best way to watch a ‘family entertainer’ is to look at it like you deal with your family. You like the familiarity and warmth, sometimes you have to tolerate the bits you don’t like, laugh at otherwise passable humor, and focus more on the important bits that make it work. Jugjugg Jeeyo gets most of these things right.