Listen to this article:
Jayeshbhai (Ranveer Singh)’s family craves a son. The fierce patriarch Prithwish (Boman Irani), the sarpanch of a hamlet in Gujarat, has forced his daughter-in-law, Mudra (Shalini Pandey), to abort five baby girls. His village has only one law: vicious masculinity.
When a young girl requests Prithwish to ban alcohol, because the boys get drunk and harass her, he declares to ban soaps, blaming women’s fragrance. When Jayeshbhai’s brother-in-law beats his sister, Prithwish expects his son to thrash Mudra – that man’s sister – to take revenge.
Mind you, at this point, less than 15 minutes have passed. Let me also remind you that Jayeshbhai Jordaar, directed by Divyang Thakkar, is a Yash Raj Films production. Around half-an-hour later, a radiant mustard field pops up. But unlike the setting of Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge’s iconic song, it doesn’t prompt the innocence of first love but… murder. Prithwish’s men are chasing Mudra and her daughter, Sidhi (Jia Vaidya).
This is the kind of film where a husband mock-beating a wife – Jayeshbhai claps and shouts behind the closed door to convince his parents – becomes a romantic scene.
The set-up is credible, intriguing, disturbing. But a movie is not a sprint; it’s a long-distance run. Jayeshbhai Jordaar insists otherwise and persists with its blinding velocity. So, we get an equally charged, inciting incident: Mudra pointing a scissor at Jayeshbhai’s neck, wanting to flee the house. Jayeshbhai, the only feminist man in the village, is so scared of his father that he has to stage a scene of protest.
Predictable mayhem follows: Jayeshbhai hatching a plan with Mudra and Sidhi, Jayeshbhai double-crossing Prithwish, Prithwish turning red with murderous rage. The movie retains its momentum but loses its logic. A simple question: why not escape in the night? Especially in an early scene, where Jayeshbhai encourages Mudra to drive in the night – a taboo in the village – showing that they’re used to such stealth.
Or take another scene: the one in the mustard field. Prithwish’s men have finally found the mother and the daughter, standing a few feet away from them. But then, Jayeshbhai, still pretending to support his father, flings a rock at them. It lands close, causing a black cat to cross their path. A sign of “panauti”, it distracts Prithwish, allowing Mudra and Sidhi to flee. The scene’s intent is straightforward (and impressive): what makes people like Prithwish rule also makes them sink – an adherence to outlandish belief. But it’s built upon an incredible mix of coincidence and contrivance, making you lose confidence in the storytelling.
Because this is a pattern. The illogical leaps propel many scenes – sometimes in succession – contradicting the characters as well. At one moment, Prithwish seems like an uncompromising old hand – shockingly stubborn in realising his vile ends – while the next he behaves like a gullible teenager, ready to believe any cock-and-bull story.
This unrelenting and bleak drama also darts in one lane. Besides some sporadic humour, it doesn’t have space or patience for anything else. It first elicits tedium, then a slow, consistent frustration.
It’s undecided about its broad tone, too. If the film’s primary setting, the village in Gujarat, inches close to the edges of dystopia (even though the very definition of that word has become contested in the India of today), then its polar opposite reeks of utopia.
While escaping from his father, for instance, Jayeshbhai drives into a local fair. The loudspeaker underscores the virtues of a baby girl, followed by “beti bachao, beti padhao”. The owner of a homestay there betrays Jayeshbhai by informing Prithwish. But his wife, a fierce Bengali woman (who insults her man at every opportunity), saves them by pointing a knife at her husband. This is a typical Hindi film disease: If your film is about a particular theme, then everything in that world must revolve around it – and, like a hat-doff to Newtonian mechanics, every character must have an equal and opposite (read: extreme!) counterpart.
Take a more crucial subplot: a village, Ladopur, in Haryana, devoid of women. Its men have become so helpless that they invite women from all over the country, promising them a life of dignity and equality. They’ve also taken a pledge of non-violence.
Surely, Ladopur doesn’t (wholly) exist, giving this movie a quasi-alternate reality feel. This isn’t a problem by itself – the problem is, the film doesn’t seem to be aware of such lunges. This, too, feels like a convenient plot point. Trying to find a safe space for Mudra and Sidhi, Jayeshbhai finds it via an online search. One message later, its sarpanch (Puneet Issar) invites them over. The Ladopur portion, trying hard to be absurd and funny and subversive, finds itself in cinematic no man’s land. It takes remarkable skill to flit from farce to realism, and Jayeshbhai Jordaar isn’t even close.
It’s also overcrowded. New subplots, characters, plot twists, narrative misdirection greet us often. They don’t elevate the film, but make it lose sight of basic things.
For a film championing the dignity of women, its female lead, Mudra, is passive. She doesn’t do much except whimper, obey and follow. I last remember seeing such a pitiable heroine in a Hindi film in Kabir Singh (whose Telugu original, Arjun Reddy, had Pandey making her debut). Singh whips up some humour, even a dash of pathos – his initial shame and helplessness brought by his family is striking – but he’s limited by the limited material. It’s become a pattern with him: a gifted actor trying his best to shine in a spate of mediocre films.
Bollywood must be the opposite of King Midas. It touches gold and turns it plastic.