Good Luck Jerry review: Janhvi Kapoor Anchors a Delightfully Airy Crime Caper

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Good Luck Jerry review: Janhvi Kapoor Anchors a Delightfully Airy Crime Caper

Illustration: Shruti Yatam

A young Bihari migrant woman gets embroiled in the drug trade in Punjab, to unpleasant consequences. We’ve seen a version of this story on screen before. In Abhishek Chaubey’s Udta Punjab (2016), what the woman faces on that path is visibly ghastly. She is at the mercy of fate and nothing else, surviving the ordeal only because we perhaps like our movies to end a certain way. After starting with a similar one-liner, Sidharth Sen’s Good Luck Jerry follows a different path. If it weren’t for the fact that Good Luck Jerry relentlessly kneels at the altar of comedy, this would have been an ungodly story too. Thankfully, the film makes all its socio-cultural observations on the sly, underneath its brand of charming, escapist situational humour.

The world is a hostile, ugly place for women – the film makes its stance quite clear. When Jerry walks through a lane, at least a few pairs of male eyes follow her all the way through. Multiple men openly vie for her affection, even though she clearly doesn’t fancy any of them. If the men in question weren’t goofily cute and fairly easy to keep at bay, we’d call them creeps. But then, Jerry also happens to be the Indefatigable Woman™ – a familiar presence in movies that Aanand L. Rai puts his name on. Think Tanu Weds Manu, Manmarziyan, Happy Bhag Jayegi, Nil Battey Sannata or Haseen Dillruba, to name just a few. Jerry starts out a naïve and fearful drug mule, who finds herself in the dastardly business only because she needs maa ke ilaaj ke paise. By the end of it though, she could as well introduce herself as, ‘Jerry. Poora naam – Jaya Kumari. Maa ka naam – Sharbati…’ Not that she turns into an actual mob boss, but she’d definitely pass a gangster vibe-check.

Thankfully, the film makes all its socio-cultural observations on the sly, underneath its brand of charming, escapist situational humour.

There’s a mad family of three women at the centre of the story. One mother and her two daughters, Jerry and Cherry. Each of these women has at least one man in love with them, but the menfolk are ultimately spectators in the game that’s unfolding. This mad family doesn’t strictly get along, though. Within the first few minutes, you’ll encounter the film’s sharpest taunt – in a heated argument, a daughter’s insult to her mother is that she is just dad in a sari. It takes a second for the inversion of the who-wears-the-pants-in-the-house cliché to sink in, but the film has already moved onto the setup for its next punchline.

Minor characters and gags fly in your face. But every speaking part has been cast to perfection, the world-building in general is impeccable. At least you can say this about the largely underwhelming state of Hindi cinema – some of its movies have steadily been getting more adept at the ‘small-town’ tale, the ones rooted to a time and place that exude actual flavour. Quite an upgrade from the generic, ‘feels like nowhere ’, NRI-pandering movies that were common to Bollywood two decades ago.

Kapoor isn’t as visibly expressive as her illustrious mother was – she was, after all, a product of a different time and culture. But emotionally, the actor is all there, in the moment. The smile and turmoil both reach her eyes, which dance around to the rhythm of the scene. She hasn’t had too long a career, so there’s not much to compare; but this has to be her best performance yet. Good Luck Jerry is based on Nelson’s 2018 Tamil film Kolaamavu Kokila, which had Nayanthara play this part. I imagine Nayanthara did a stellar job with the character, probably nailing it like no one else. It also feels like Janhvi Kapoor’s take on the character must be quite different from the superstar’s portrayal.

Kapoor isn’t as visibly expressive as her illustrious mother was – she was, after all, a product of a different time and culture. But emotionally, the actor is all there, in the moment.

Yet, Good Luck Jerry is so much more than its young, gently-evolving lead actor. Mita Vashisht plays her mother Sharbati, to great effect. Deepak Dobriyal plays an amped up version of what the Vicky Kaushal character in Manmarziyan would probably be like for the India that’s not on screen. He is one of Jerry’s potential suitors, the ‘hero’ of his ‘gully’. The clichés are written in strictly so they can be lampooned. Every other name in the cast – Neeraj Sood, Sushant Singh, Sahil Mehta, Jaswant Singh Dalal – all playing characters major and minor – are only a tick in the pros column.

Director Sidharth Sen, is clearly the person responsible for convincing you to be a willing participant in the shenanigans on display. In its finest comic scene, Good Luck Jerry is mostly wordless. A paranoid drug distributor doesn’t let people speak in front of him, because even dogs have ears. (Earlier in the film, this man packs Jerry’s mobile phone into a plastic cover and drops it into an aquarium, because privacy.) So, everyone has to introduce themselves in dumb charades – Jerry, her family and their extended coterie of men.

Clocking in at under two hours, Good Luck Jerry is the story of a woman who writes her own destiny while navigating a world that doesn’t believe in her agency.

That is, until Deepak Dobriyal steps up and gives their real introduction, miming truth bombs that no one else will. There are also the tiny touches that might regale you. Like a drug dealer taking a minute to close one of those rectangular steel lunchboxes, used in a scene to conceal a packet of cocaine. If you’ve carried your school lunch in one of those evil contraptions, you’ll know how much they resist being closed, even the fasteners on either side giving up and deserting you sometimes. Sen’s staging and control of the flow of the film is the prime reason why you’ll be drawn in within minutes. Clocking in at under two hours, Good Luck Jerry is the story of a woman who writes her own destiny while navigating a world that doesn’t believe in her agency. That makes it sound much denser than the light, airy streaming watch the film plays out as.

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