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    Jugjugg Jeeyo movie review: Solid acting performances save this dramedy from crash landing

    Jugjugg Jeeyo movie review: Solid acting performances save this dramedy from crash landing

    Jugjugg Jeeyo movie review: Solid acting performances save this dramedy from crash landing
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    By Sneha Bengani   IST (Published)

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    This film is not about love. It’s about marriage and the many fault lines one has to carefully navigate to make it work. It’s about the exhaustion and the disillusionment that creeps into even the most seemingly perfect and stable unions. It’s a cautionary tale; a telling antidote to all the films of yore that ended with a happily ever after.

    Raj Mehta’s newest directorial outing is as stark tonally as the talk of divorce in the middle of a wedding. Therefore, it’s nothing short of a miracle that despite painting its world in broad strokes — characters, conflict, comedy, interpersonal relationships — he still manages to make Jugjugg Jeeyo work. It’s mostly because of his consistent, dependable cast.
    Each actor, whether it be Anil Kapoor, Neetu Kapoor, Varun Dhawan, Kiara Advani, Manish Paul, or Prajakta Koli, adds a lot more to their character than what they are given, enthusing them with qualities that are abstract but palpable, ably filling the gaps and inconsistencies in the writing with subtle nuances, making the world of Jugjugg Jeeyo richer, more believable and watchable.
    This film is not about love. It’s about marriage and the many fault lines one has to carefully navigate to make it work. It’s about the exhaustion and the disillusionment that creeps into even the most seemingly perfect and stable unions. It’s a cautionary tale; a telling antidote to all the films of yore that ended with a happily ever after. Albeit accompanied by a lot of loud Punjabiness, Jugjugg Jeeyo tells you flatly — no such thing exists. And even if it does, you won’t be served it on a platter, picturesque and palatable, tweaked as per your aesthetic. Woefully, no Instagram filters exist (yet) to make marriages look dreamier than they are. You have to work at it painstakingly each day. Some days are easier than others, but work they will demand nonetheless.
    Jugjugg Jeeyo gets done with the love story in the first 10 minutes. The rest is about what follows. Kukoo (Varun Dhawan) professes his love for Naina (Kiara Advani) for the first time in school when they are both in Class 5. We are told he proposed to her five times and we see him befriending her elder brother Gurpreet (Manish Paul) to get through to her. Post getting married, they move from their hometown Patiala to Canada after Naina gets a job offer too good to not pursue. As her corporate career takes off in Toronto, Kukoo finds himself working as a bouncer at one of the city’s countless nightclubs.
    Now five years into marriage and away from home, their once-fabled union has become too cumbersome for either of them to drag along any further. On their fifth wedding anniversary, they announce they want a divorce. Meanwhile, Kukoo’s younger sister Ginny (Koli) is due to get married in Patiala. So Kukoo and Naina decide to put on the happy couple act until after the wedding. But once they return to India, they find themselves in the middle of a family crisis. Their thunder is hijacked; the focus completely shifts from them to their parents. That’s when the real drama starts.
    As Kukoo sets the ground to tell his father Bheem (Anil Kapoor) about his decision to get a divorce, Bheem reveals he is planning to end his 35-year-long marriage with Kukoo’s mother Geeta (Neetu Kapoor). In that moment of candor, they unwittingly open a Pandora’s box and nothing remains the same. With every blunder, lie, lapse in judgment, and ill-conceived attempt at patch-up, the ground begins to shift. Imperceptibly at first and then with a momentum that gets everyone reeling.
    Though Jugjugg Jeeyo relies heavily on Varun Dhawan’s charisma and rare ability to smoothly oscillate between raucous comedy and volatile melodrama, with some suave dance moves thrown in between, Anil Kapoor is this film’s real hero. The story gives everyone their fair share of conflict, but Bheem is the only one with an actual character arc. He is selfish, flippant, conceited, and manipulative, with the gravitas of a 19-year-old. But Anil Kapoor plays Bheem with such charm and charisma, you find it difficult to hate him. His Bheem feels like the organic extension of his Kamal Mehra from Zoya Akhtar’s 2015 film Dil Dhadakne Do. Only, he is a lot crasser and uses humour as a survival tactic.
    But the real revelation for me was Neetu Kapoor. She imbues her Geeta with unflinching, stoic grace and dignity. She is the long-suffering, wronged wife, and yet, she is not. If only writers Rishabh Sharma, Anurag Singh, Sumit Batheja, and Neeraj Udhawani had fleshed out her character a little more. Throughout the film, there is a lot of talk about Bheem’s desires; he constantly complains about how there is no love or romance in his marriage with Geeta. But we are not made privy to Geeta’s wants and yearnings even once. Jugjugg Jeeyo presents Bheem as a full man — husband, father, lover. But it reduces Geeta to just a mother. Sanitised, devoid of any sexuality whatsoever.
    I also fervently hoped that Jugjugg Jeeyo would give Bheem and Geeta at least one private moment together. But it does not. In a film so crowded, the two of them don’t have even one scene alone. This exploration of the personal was what made Dil Dhadakne Do so rich, so relatable, and so avant-garde. Also a film about failing marriages, it dared to show all that happened between couples behind closed doors. Sadly, Jugjugg Jeeyo lacks that chutzpah.
    Advani has made a career out of playing the decorative arm candy. It was therefore refreshing to see her in a role that accorded her some meat, agency. Two of my favorite scenes in the film, both have her. The first is with Geeta, after the big reveal. It’s a tender, heart-breaking moment when Geeta confesses how, within the first year of her marriage, she’d found out that she was with the wrong man. And how without love, especially after 35 years, marriage reduces to a habit. Permeated with tears, tenderness, and silences, it is cathartic, and the film’s indisputable highlight. Naina and Geeta’s effortless, easy bond shines through and tugs at your heart despite all the noise.
    The second is a blow-out confrontation between Naina and Kukoo. The first and the only. As the decibel level of their shouting voices reaches a crescendo, knots start to loosen. What begins as cold silences and casual avoidance at the beginning of the film finally finds words — caustic, complaining, condescending. Both Advani and Dhawan are terrific in it. Two adults stuck in a thing of their own making that’s now begun to fester, and clueless about how to get out of it.
    Both these scenes reminded me of two other crucial scenes from Raj Mehta’s debut film Good Newwz (2019). One where the two pregnant women unexpectedly connect while waiting at a paani puri stall. The other is Kareena Kapoor Khan’s emotionally charged monologue with Akshay Kumar, detailing all that a woman goes through during pregnancy and how the least men can do is care. Raj seems to have a knack for these key grounding moments that wonderfully anchor his films and elevate them from mindless comedies to socially relevant dramedies.
    Watch out for Manish Paul and Prajakta Koli. As siblings of the lead pair, they deliver a whistle-worthy performance. They add an unmistakable joy and sweetness to the film. Jugjugg Jeeyo is brave enough to take up an issue as thorny as divorce. But it’s not sensitive enough to deal with Tisca Chopra’s Meera with care. It reduces her to the banal archetype of the other woman. Sultry, independent, who runs away from responsibilities. However, courtesy gorgeous actors, fantastic mounting, and catchy music, the film is agreeable enough to pull crowds to theatres until the next big release.
    Read other pieces by Sneha Bengani here.
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