From Matrubhoomi: A Nation Without Women (2003) to Kaali Khuhi (2020), Bollywood has in the past dealt with issues of female infanticide on several occasions. But each time, it was presented in a serious way.
First-time screenwriter and director Divyang Thakkar attempts to break from routine with Jayeshbhai Jordaar. Ranveer Singh’s star focuses on the illegal social practice of widespread female infanticide in a satirical way, giving a new perspective to an important issue.
That Jayeshbhai (Ranveer) and Mudra (Shalini Pandey) will become parents to another daughter is something we know from the trailers. There is a constantly complaining and grumpy elderly father (Boman Irani) whose unique agenda is “vansh ko aage badhana hai”. He constantly worries about his daughter-in-law’s inability to give them a son. There is a mother (Ratna Pathak Shah) who throughout her life is oppressed by her husband’s patriarchal thoughts, which is also known from the beginning.
What I expected was a little more surprise, and yes, a little more fun. Thakkar immerses us in a beautifully detailed world with flesh and blood characters but halfway through it switches into Bollywood fairy tale mode leaving viewers with mixed feelings. He chooses not to build his character as an alpha male and instead chooses to go with a character (Jayeshbhai) who can’t even hurt a fly. Will he rise to the occasion and rebel in the sexist, chauvinistic environment in which he was raised? Instead of tiptoeing around the issue or sensationalizing beyond reason, Jayeshbhai Jordaar throws modesty to the wind and gives the issue a passionate embrace. The film is persuasive as long as the narrative stays with the small wins.
Although it tackles a hot and angry subject, the film is funny. Ironically, as soon as the film tries to be just funny – highlighting the idiosyncrasies of its characters isolated from the narrative – it loses its charm. Thakkar’s noble intention wears thin when the script begins to reduce the issue to jokes for quick laughs.
After the interval, the narrative changes from nuance to broad stroke, which makes the whole procedure very convenient. The film also attempts to highlight the issues of child marriage and patriarchal mentality in society, which somehow makes it deviate from the main subject.
It is Ranveer who emerges as a star. He carries the film firmly on his shoulder. He tries his best to become Jayesbhai, who hides his hurt and only wants to do good for everyone. With each appearance, his level of engagement is clearly on the rise, and he’s a very likable actor, going out of his way to win us over if he’s missing a few beats here and there. Her performance clearly helps the film rise a few notches above the ordinary in terms of appeal and impact. He deserves a pappi (kiss) just like his character explains the importance of a kiss to solve any problem.
From arranging the “pallu” on the head to some of his deep exchanges with Ranveer, Shalini is solid and off to a great start. She plays a crucial role, the wife who allows her husband to believe in him: he only dares to dream because she dares to. Their chemistry is quite natural.
Out of the supporting cast, Jia Vaidya who plays Ranveer and Shalini’s daughter in the movie deserves a special mention. When the proceedings get a little boring, it’s her character who brings the film to life. Boman Irani is generally solid as Ranveer’s disgruntled father. On the other hand, Ratna Pathak Shah seems to be struggling with an underwritten character.
Jayesbhai Jordaar is not only unsatisfying but also poignant. The movie is pretty airy at its core, but despite its catchy moments, the film leaves you unsatisfied. It certainly could have been more “Jordaar”.
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