Just How Sanskaari is Pahlaj Nihalani’s Julie 2?

Bollywood

Just How Sanskaari is Pahlaj Nihalani’s Julie 2?

Illustration: Shruti Yatam

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ow that the much anticipated Julie 2, or ex-CBFC chief Pahlaj Nihalani’s return to his roots (remember Khada hai?) has hit theatres, we finally have the chance to investigate the one mystery that’s been plaguing us all: Exactly how sanskaari is Nihalani’s latest production?
According to Nihalani, Julie 2 has no “vulgarity, obscenity, or even a language problem.” The film is a bold thriller about how talented people come into the industry and are then forced to compromise: An exposé with a message for aspiring actors. But all it takes is the first 10 minutes of the film’s 137-minute runtime to realise that Pahlaj Nihalani, a man with a reputation of being off-mark, has never been more off-mark.

Julie 2 is proof that gifting Nihalani a dictionary is the need of the hour. Neither is any part of Julie 2 bold, nor is it an exposé with a message. What it is instead is a juvenile film that ends up romanticising the casting couch, encourages awful rhyming, and blatant objectification of women.

Every song in the film, for instance, is designed with the intent of either having a camera zoom in on Raai Lakshmi’s (the eponymous Julie) breasts and stomach, or show her getting drenched: Julie gets drenched during the title track (there’s actually a shot of water hitting her breasts, shown in two split frames); while shooting a song with Telugu superstar Ravi Kumar; and a random scene of her taking a dip in the water and getting baptised. She even finds a pool in the middle of the friggin’ desert. Sanskaar level: non-existent.

Julie is a hardworking, naive, and extraordinarily kind struggler, adamant on becoming an actress without “compromise”. Yet, she ends up not just compromising once, but several times over.

Julie is a hardworking, naive, and extraordinarily kind struggler, adamant on becoming an actress without “compromise”. Yet, she ends up not just compromising once, but several times over: With a Telugu superstar who cheats on her because she declines his vacation invitation (If there’s anything worse than seeing Ravi Kishen act, it’s definitely seeing him in a sex scene) and an underworld don who wants her to leave every place within four hours. In the name of being an exposé on the film industry’s casting couch, the film actually ends up glorifying it. Sanskaar level: non-existent times 100.

But what really gets my goat is the gall of the man. What passes for “bold” here, is a tacky kissing scene from the man who shortened a kiss in Daniel Craig’s Spectre. The same CBFC chief who objected to a bra in Ayushmann Khuranna’s Dum Laga Ke Haisha has ensured that Julie 2 is essentially a lingerie showreel. The same man who was on a mission to protect “Indian culture” is backing a film littered with sex scenes and the blatant objectification of women with songs like “Main Chennai ka rasam, main tandoor garam.” Sanskaar level: non-existent raised to the power of… oh, let’s just give up.

Halfway through Julie 2, the film inexplicably forgets its intention of being an erotic film, and ends up as a love letter to Jesus. Julie 2 is two-hour-long evidence that Pahlaj Nihalani needs to make better use of his free time. And load up on some sanskaar, while he’s at it.

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