Jayeshbhai Jordaar is like watching two movies—one delightful, other messy

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Ranveer Singh, Jia Vaidya and Shalini Pandey in Jayeshbhai Jordaar. photo: Yash Raj Films

The first half begins delightfully in rural Gujarat. The village of Pravingadh has Ramlal Patel (Boman Irani), a chauvinistic patriarch, as the backdoor sarpanch. A man who feels that every woman must give her family a son as heir (waris) to perpetuate the clan, he has made his son Jayeshbhai (Ranveer Singh) and daughter-in-law Mudra (Shalini Pandey) determine the sex of the child every time she got pregnant after having a daughter, Siddhi (Jia Vaidya). She has therefore had five abortions done.

Jayeshbhai is too docile and timid to oppose his father. So Siddhi and he make a practice of pretending to ill-treat his wife whenever his married sister (Deeksha Joshi) is beaten by her husband, who is Mudra’s brother. This is because he and his sister have been married off to Mudra and her brother as per another regressive tradition and the two women must be treated similarly!

Mudra goes through a pre-natal sex determination test again (this test has been banned in 1994 in India, so the film, in which smartphones are liberally shown as part of the plot, shows it being conducted illegally in the local hospital!) and Jayesh comes to know that a female child is again on the way.

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After this, the idea is to keep this a secret till the child’s birth and what happens next.

In the 2-hour-5-minute film, the pre-interval portions are funny to hilarious, and we wrongly feel we are in for delightful entertainment with drama, comedy, relatable emotions and social satire. Yes, there are flaws when we consider the motivations of the film: the doctor conducting the pre-natal test is a female, for starters.

The husband craves for a pappi (kiss) from her, but we are told to accept with a barrel of salt the fact that he has been married for 9 years, has fathered multiple children and yet never kissed someone he loves and who loves him! Go figure that!

In a media interaction, writer-director Divyang Thakkar had said that he had made his presentation of his home state Gujarat non-stereotypical, but the hard fact is that he has made the male community look like regressive morons. And he has made both the ‘hero’ and the women timid, submissive and even ignorant. A hero—in every film—must be jordaar if a social message has to go through! But here, he is not!

Yes, I do appreciate how superstition and orthodoxy are shown to rob us of basic humanism and make us victim to weird beliefs and practices, but in his zeal to showcase his theme of gender equality, Divyang overdoes things and he makes a mess! And that’s an understatement!

And so we come to the second movie we watched—Oops! We meant the post-interval section! In the first half, we have already been introduced to a clan of hefty men from Haryana, who stay deprived of love in a woman-free locale and now regret it! (No explanations offered fro this Matrubhoomi(2004)-like situation!). They want women to come there and inhabit their village.

In the second half, we see them summoned by Siddhi through her smartphone to help out when things go to the point where Jayeshbhai is being forced to marry again. Somewhere during this mess, Jayeshbhai has come to know that it is the father who determines the gender of the child, but even that does not give him the gumption of standing up against his father. So this huge busload of Hariyanvi toughies must come to Gujarat to teach the regressive locals a lesson!

In this whole convoluted part (which seems too long!), we begin to feel despair—where are Hindi films going if this is what we are getting from the big names? The turnaround by the mother (Ratna Pathank Shah) happens too late and for a flimsy reason, all things considered.

Nevertheless, the technically upbeat film (Mayur Pradhan’s vibrant production design is a highlight) boasts of some terrific turns by the actors. Ranveer Singh is spot-on as Jayeshbhai, except on a few occasions when we can glimpse the star in spurts. Shalini Pandey makes a superb debut as Mudra and her underplaying is a consistent highlight. Deeksha Joshi as Jayesh’s sister is fabulous, especially in the slapping sequence and the climactic scenes.

And Jia Vaidya as Riddhi steals the scenes from everyone—here is one of the finest child artistes ever seen in Hindi cinema. Boman Irani, Ratna Pathak Shah and Puneet Issar get clichéd roles and act accordingly, which is very reprehensible considering their talent.

Yash Raj Films has by now done a surfeit of gender-equality films and must now desist from more! Divyang Thakkar’s script is the biggest culprit, for in this socially-conscious stew that finally seems like a battle between regressive Gujarat and progressive Haryana, the loser is the audience.

Rating: **

Yash Raj Films’ Jayeshbhai Jordaar  Produced by: Maneesh Sharma & Aditya Chopra  Directed by: Divyang Thakkar  Written by: Divyang Thakkar & Anckur Chaudhry  Music: Vishal & Sheykhar  Starring:Ranveer Singh, Shalini Pandey, Boman Irani, Neena Gupta, Jia Vaidya, Puneet Issar, Deeksha Joshi, Samay Raj Thakkar, Ragi Jani & others

 

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