Jubilee is poignant trip down matinee lane

Wamiqa Gabbi shows potential to be a big-screen star package in Jubilee. Photo: Hardly Anonymous Communications

Make no mistake: Jubilee is not something path-breaking and original. Within its format of a partly- (and smartly!) inspired story from real life lies a human tale of betrayal, politics and manipulations, immoral liaisons and ambitions that could be interchanged, perhaps, with multiple other stories on the web.

However, it is the painstakingly-constructed and (for the film industry as well as viewers), nostalgia-ridden look at what can be called the vintage era of Hindi cinema that gives the series its poignancy and above-average edge and sheen. Add carefully constructed (that’s the only word that fits) lyrics (Kausar Munir), the caressingly-composed olde- worlde musical score (Amit Trivedi) and well-researched and designed sets, make-up, hairstyling and costumes and Jubilee becomes an epic, mounted on a supremely lavish scale.

We have the astute similarities to old Shankar-Jaikishan, C. Ramachandra, O.P. Nayyar and S.D. Burman melodies and even their lyrics. Saare ke saare akele is a shrewdly-designed yet original tribute to Dekhi zamane ke yaari by Kaifi Azmi in Kagaz Ke Phool with Yeh mahalon yeh takhton yeh khwabon ki duniya by Sahir Ludhianvi in Pyaasa—two Guru Dutt classics that remain benchmark comments on the flip-side of consumerism and self-centered living!

The gruesome after-effects of Partition, the well-documented historical episode of how film songs were banned for a while by the Government of India and the birth of Radio Ceylon in India, the culture of studios going extinct with the passage of time, of refugees working their way up from scratch, of women whose origins were from the red-light area becoming big-ticket stars, of frustrated singers and lusty financiers—all these will strike an echo in film scholars, historians, observers and lovers of the cinema of those times.

How stars then were mere employees (often on paltry salaries) before they came to dominate the economics of the film industry today and how the simple-minded audience mentally merged the identities of big name ‘heroes’ with their perception of the real person behind—these too are feelingly etched as we go through the complex plot.

In its final analysis, Jubilee is the story of aspired success for actors and filmmakers. A 25-week theatrical run of a film was termed a ‘Silver Jubilee’, followed by Golden for 50, Diamond for 60 and Platinum for 75—in India. In the West, some of these terms had different connotations in their cinema.

Jamshed Khan (Nandish Sandhu) is having an affair with Sumitra Kumari (Aditi Rao Hydari), who is a huge star and wife to morally-ambiguous studio owner and filmmaker Srikant Roy (Prosenjit Chatterjee) in Mumbai. The two have ‘run away’ to Lucknow after Jamshed has given a fantastic audition for the role of Madan Kumar in Roy’s next film.

Roy comes to know of this and sends his employee, Binod Das (Aparshakti Khurana) to Lucknow to bring them both back. Binod meets Jamshed and when, a short while later, Jamshed is set to elope with Sumitra to Karachi and do Jay Khanna (Sidhant Gupta)’s film instead of Roy’s, Binod informs his boss of the development.

The two lovers plan to meet at a point by traveling separately, but on the way, a lot of things happen (riots have broken out in Lucknow) and Jamshed is killed by rioters. However, Binod, who has joined Roy Talkies to become an actor one day, grabs the chance and auditions to his boss. Roy likes his passionate act and signs him, much to the discomfiture of his financier, Walia (Ram Kapoor), and his wife, whom he has managed to intercept and bring back.

As the film is completed and becomes a hit, Binod becomes the Madan Kumar, and soon becomes a huge star. Jay Khanna reaches Karachi heartbroken as he has seen Jamshed being killed and is further devastated when he finds his father (Arun Govil)’s studio destroyed in the riots. The family reaches Mumbai as refugees and Jay gets a job at Roy Talkies as a canteen employee.

Also arriving in Mumbai from Lucknow is Niloufer (Wamiqa Gabbi), who manages to find a decent rented apartment and struggles in the industry. As Jay, Binod and Niloufer all become stars, they see remarkable ups and downs in their professional as well as personal lives.

Meanwhile, the Russians and Americans both try to manipulate Indian filmmakers with their plans—the Russians use shady tactics like bugging offices and residences and want Indian filmmakers to promote socialism, while the Americans want the big names to make movies in the latest technology of Cinemascope (again a smart reference to India’s first Cinemascope film—the same Kagaz Ke Phool in 1959!).

A rather absurd ploy, even if perhaps necessary for this plot, is the complete absence of other filmmakers, studios, stars and so on. The world of Jubilee has only these characters and the press and fans—there is no one else in the industry who is even at the fringes!

Caught in this complex whirlpool due to no fault of theirs are Binod’s innocent wife, Ratna (Shweta Basu Prasad) and his singer-aspirant younger brother, Naren (Chirag Katrecha), Jay’s simple-minded parents and his fiancé, Kiran (Sukhmanee Lamba). And at the end (which is the only culmination logically possible for all characters), when everyone’s past catches up with them, I found myself feeling a deep empathy and even pity for the hapless Niloufer and poor Naren.

The series is almost 10 hours long and the background score (Alokananda Dasgupta) and the script’s engrossing quotient help keep the momentum on despite this length. There is no phase that sees the viewer restive and the dialogues are simple and superb.

Technically among the finest we have seen on the Indian web (alongside Scam 1992 and the Rocket Boys franchise), Jubilee is, simply, the best work Vikramaditya Motwane has ever done. Correction: This is his first ever directorial that I have found worth its watch. Huge pats to the technical as well as writing team too.

As for the performances, Prosenjit Chatterjee as Roy, Ram Kapoor as Walia and Aparshakti Khurana as Binod top the all-good list, strictly in that order. Among the women, Wamiqa Gabbi is pure big-screen star material (as she plays here on screen!) and is simply amazing. Aditi Rao Hydari too makes a mark, unlike in her recent Amazon misadventure, Taj—Divided by Blood. Poor Shweta Basu Prasad is wasted, while Sidhant Gupta as Jay is correctly rakish, but that’s all.

After eons, Amazon has come up with a fab series, and I hope they keep it up.

Rating: ****



Amazon Prime Video presents Andolan Films, Reliance Entertainment, Abundantia Entertainment’s & Phantom Studios’ Jubilee  Created by: Vikramaditya Motwane & Soumik Sen Produced by: Dipa De Motwane  Directed by: Vikramaditya Motwane  Written by: Atul Sabharwal,  Prachi Singh, Hartej Sawhney & Nishant Agarwal  Music: Amit Trivedi  Starring: Prosenjit Chatterjee, Aditi Rao Hydari, Aparshakti Khurana,  Wamiqa Gabbi, Sidhant Gupta, Ram Kapoor, Shweta Basu Prasad, Alok Arora, Chirag Katrecha, Sukhmanee Lamba, Nandish Sandhu, Arun Govil, Madhu Sachdeva, Narottam Bain, Edward Sonnenblick, Akshay Batchu, Tushar Phulke, Harish Chhabra, Suhani Popli, Ashok Banthia, Vikas Shukla, Aurobindo Bhatacharjee, Sanjay Sharma, Samvedna Suwalka, Faisal Rashid, Sp. App.: Amit Trivedi






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