Jugjugg Jeeyo review: Hits the Mark with Humour and Emotion

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Jugjugg Jeeyo review: Hits the Mark with Humour and Emotion

Illustration: Arati Gujar

There is a peculiar old Bollywood pitfall that Raj Mehta’s sophomore feature Jugjugg Jeeyo manages to steer clear of – the infamous ‘curse of the second half’. This is a film that starts cute, proceeds just fine, and then amps up its emotional undercurrent in the final hour to hundred-and-beyond without much warning. The resultant surprise is fulfilling in its own messy way. (Not going to lie – a few tears were shed. Stop it, Neetu Kapoor!)

The outer wrapping of the latest Dharma release is classic Dharma – a Punjabi wedding that’s unabashedly plus-sized. Relatable, only to the extent that Hindi cinema has made us aware such weddings are a distinct possibility up north; though most of us wouldn’t have gone anywhere within two bighas of something as grand. At this particular Gen-Z shaadi, we see that two other marriages – one boomer, one millennial – are both on the verge of falling apart. In the kind of family that has, across generations, never considered divorce as a possibility, there may suddenly be two. The older Sainis, Geeta and Bheem (Neetu Kapoor and Anil Kapoor) have been married for 35 years. Bheem feels young and loved again in the company of another woman. Their son Kukoo (Varun Dhawan) has issues of his own, with his wife Naina (Kiara Advani).

Despite the male-centric storytelling, it is heartening to see that the film manages to push the needle a wee bit, when it comes to portraying how real-world relationships can break down.

Now, this is a film written by a total of five men and directed by a sixth. So, make no mistake, the perspective we see is largely that of the male characters. It is Kukoo who seems to bear the brunt of the situation for most of the film. Meanwhile, Anil Kapoor’s Bheem is perpetually up to his own shenanigans on the side, running around like Scrat from Ice Age, chasing the elusive acorn. Despite the male-centric storytelling, it is heartening to see that the film manages to push the needle a wee bit, when it comes to portraying how real-world relationships can break down. And it does this while still adhering faithfully to the glossy exterior, broad-strokes characterisation and easily accessible movie grammar that Big Bollywood seems so reluctant to let go of.

The most intense fight between one couple is scored to obvious music when it really needed none. The use of the music probably isn’t to heighten the emotional impact of that scene, but to lessen it. They don’t want to send anyone home too sad, internalising and dissecting their own relationships after watching this. The very title of the film is a blessing to live happily ever after.

The dynamic between Kukoo and Naina is reminiscent of the one between the lead pair in R. Balki’s Ki & Ka (2016). She’s a talented career woman, he’s… also there. Their relationship has reached a stage where they can’t even stand together at a traffic intersection, and they’re barely cordial when they speak. Their graph goes from school-time puppy love to a worn out five-year-old marriage within five minutes right at the top of the film, though it remains a while before we fully understand why they’ve reached where they are.

Their troubles appear to stem from familiar gender stereotypes, but the nuance with which they handle it outshines Balki’s gimmicky take on this.

The older couple’s woes, then, might remind you of Dil Dhadakne Do with its setup. A couple that has stayed together because that’s what the older generation has been conditioned to do. Anil Kapoor’s presence makes it a double whammy. He even has a false alarm heart attack that might just have been gas, like in Zoya Akhtar’s film. Geeta Saini is blissfully unaware of what’s going on in Bheem’s mind and heart. Every marriage has problems, that’s how she looks at it. These two have probably fought every day of their married life. But they stay together and build a family through it all, because that’s what Indians are told to do. Their fissures are deeper, so their reconciliation is complicated, probably not even guaranteed.

Their arc does end up leaving ‘the other woman’ Meera (played by Tisca Chopra) a little short-changed. She is dismissed as a woman who couldn’t tolerate for one day what the virtuous wife Geeta Saina has gone through for three and a half decades. Objectively, that sounds like Geeta and Meera would both be better off without Bheem. Meera is vilified far too often to take the film’s understanding of gender politics seriously, but this really isn’t the space to push for societal change. In the here and now, a failing marriage is a two-person problem that isn’t meant to carry the burden of the social injustice issue of all of humankind. However, they can certainly learn from the mistakes our species has made over generations and centuries. In that regard, the younger couple seems more capable of actually addressing their issues than the older one, who might still end up together because of inertia.

In the here and now, a failing marriage is a two-person problem that isn’t meant to carry the burden of the social injustice issue of all of humankind.

It’s easy to guess, though. Ki and Ka. Their troubles appear to stem from familiar gender stereotypes, but the nuance with which they handle it outshines Balki’s gimmicky take on this. Kukoo is almost unwilling to admit that his insecurity in their marriage might just stem from some amount of masculine ego, but the man-child eventually does see the error of his ways. Supportiveness and compromise must be two-way streets in a marriage, after all.

For the most, the wedding buffet serves us one-liners largely delivered by confused grown up men behaving exactly like the children they are. You can run with it, because the one-liners tend to land. The women come into their own in that knockout last hour, and the wait is almost worth it. The return of Neetu Kapoor tops the list. The person might be anxious and shaky while making such a return to screen histrionics. But the actor inside hits it for a home run, nonetheless. She, who frequently stole scenes right from under her illustrious male co-stars back in the day, at a time when women hardly got much to do in movies anyway. It feels like she never left.

Kiara Advani also does a thoroughly competent job with Naina. On a fine box-office run in the past few years, Advani has steadily been honing her craft alongside. Between the two of them, Kapoor and Advani take the film home, despite often ceding screen-time to Maniesh Paul, who plays Naina’s brother and pulls off A Suitable Buffoon to perfection. If only the current bride – Prajakta Koli’s Ginny – had a larger role, the triumvirate of women across generations walking away with the film would’ve been complete. As the youngest of the lot, she has a few throwaway ‘how the hell are you guys in-charge’ moments around the older folk. Koli is a talented performer, and the film would only have benefitted from having much more of her than it settles for.

For the most, the wedding buffet serves us one-liners largely delivered by confused grown up men behaving exactly like the children they are.

Perhaps it comes down to expectations. I enjoyed far more in the film than I ever thought I would while going in. Varun Dhawan, who usually gets an A for Effort, might just snag an A+ here. Anil Kapoor’s impish persona feels specifically designed for this kind of philandering father role. But among the men involved, the plaudits must go to director Raj Mehta, a man who seems adept at the new-wine-familiar-bottle game. The new wine may be questionable, but you’ll probably drink whatever you can get your hands on at a wedding.

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