Cast: Sidharth Malhotra, Parineeti Chopra, Jaaved Jaaferi, Sanjay Mishra and Aparshakti Khurana
Director: Prashant Singh
Rating: One Star (out of 5)
The male protagonist of Jabariya Jodi, a goon who revels in abducting dowry-seeking boys and compelling them to do marry against their will, takes eons to figure out that, be it pyaar or shaadi, the use of force should be a strict no-no. But no force in the world can stop the makers of this nondescript film from gravitating towards the pits. Not that they make any effort at a reversal. The audience, on its part, does not have to wait for two and a half hours to sense how disastrous this haphazard Bollywood take on Bihar's forced marriages is going to be. Each minute of Jabariya Jodi, one as baffling as the other, feels like a lifetime wasted.
The utter lack of chemistry between the lead pair of Sidharth Malhotra and Parineeti Chopra, both completely out of sorts in this milieu, aggravates matters. Jabariya Jodi takes the wrecking-ball approach to filmmaking, which entails setting up a premise and quickly proceeding to pull to pieces the very next moment to make way for another listless, formless, short-lived plot detail, which is just as doomed as everything else in the film. Over 143 minutes, that leaves a hell of a lot of ugly debris around. The script, authored by Sanjeev K Jha, bears the imprint of a plethora of cooks (at least two other writers are credited for "additional screenplay"). Devoid of focus and logic and riddled with acting that borders on the shockingly amateurish, the film opts for the pursuit of concentric circles as its favoured narrative mode and ties itself up in countless unseemly knots in the process. The storyline is so convoluted that an attempt to make sense of it would be futile.
Jabariya Jodi has been filmed entirely in Uttar Pradesh. A raunchy version of Zila Hilela is bunged in early on in a bid to establish the Bihar setting. Soon enough, however, we hear good old Punjabi intrude into the mix by way of a love ditty, Ki Honda Pyaar. By the time the end credits roll a full-on Bhangra number is unleashed on the soundtrack. If this film keeps us guessing as to whether it is a comedy, a love story or an earth-shattering probe into a social malaise, it is also hopelessly clueless about its cultural moorings. The spaces where it has been shot, the places where it is supposedly set and the sounds that it employs in order to create an ambience are all at odds with each other.
The film opens in 2005 in a small town called Madhopur, the home of a feisty schoolgirl Babli Yadav and a cocky, entitled teenager Abhay Singh. The former pushes the latter into a river when he makes a pass at her. The two light-eyed kids develop a bond, but the girl leaves for the big city. Fifteen years later, the lightness of their eyes is gone - the love-struck youngsters have now been replaced by Parineeti Chopra and Sidharth Malhotra - and so is their bonding with each other.
Distance, it is said, makes the heart grow fonder. Here, it doesn't. The hero, unable to come out of the shadow of an oppressive father, Hukum Dev Singh (Jaaved Jaaferi), leads a pack of wastrels in the business of kidnapping prospective bridegrooms and forcing them into marriage with girls whose fathers cannot afford to cough up a dowry. That might, on the face of it, seem like a noble mission until you realize that nobody has any time at all to sit the girls down and ask them what they feel about the racket. A payment from the girl's father is enough to get Abhay Singh and his gang to swing into action.
Somewhere along the way, Abhay and Babli meet again, but so conflicted is the man about his feelings for his childhood sweetheart that he hums and haws his way through the rest of the film. In fact, at one point, the exasperated Babli gives him a taste of his own bitter medicine but stops short of the seventh vow. Amid all this, Jodi makes stray allusions to Abhay's political ambitions, while his father makes occasional overtures to a rival (played by Sharad Kapoor).
At one point in the film, when the hero revives his long-dormant relationship with Babli and his pals taunt him, he 'manfully' asserts: "Hamara focus bistar se zyada kursi pe hain (My focus is more on the seat of power than on the nuptial bed)." Are we supposed to laugh or simply marvel at the sheer 'originality' of that line? The film has a surfeit of such excruciatingly laboured one-liners that are meant to be funny. They are funny all right but for all the wrong reasons.
The acting is steeped in mediocrity. Sidharth Malhotra, too chocolaty, does not look the part of a dreaded muscleman who can put the fear of God into dowry-seekers. Parineeti punctuates her perky, no-nonsense girl persona with moments of demure docility. All the effort that she makes to traverse the gamut quickly ceases to convey any meaning in the absence of cohesion and clarity in the character's motives. Aparshakti Khurana also has a role in Jabariya Jodi but he is never allowed to be anything more than being a part of the backdrop.
Much worse is in store for actors of the calibre of Jaaved Jaaferi, Sanjay Mishra (playing the heroine's somnambulist, history teacher father), Sheeba Chaddha (the hero's doormat mom) and Chandan Roy Sanyal (in the role of the hero's principal partner in crime). They are rendered so ineffectual that one is left wishing that they hadn't strayed on to the sets of the film and had instead used their time more gainfully elsewhere.
It is the hero's long-suffering mother who gets to spout the home truths that all the difference for her boy struggling to make the distinction between right and wrong. On one occasion, she says: Socho dimaagh se aur nibhaao dil se (Think with your mind but follow your heart). On another, she turns into a shrink. Kuch rishton mein izzat aur darr ka farq nahin pata chalta (In some relationships, the line between respect and fear is blurred), she tells her wayward son. Bingo, it works like magic.
If only there was a conjurer's trick that could turn Jabariya Jodi into a coherent whole. But even if any such sleight exists somewhere in the world, the director clearly isn't aware. Steadfastly puerile, Jabariya Jodi, a film that appears to have been made under duress by a group of people playing blind man's buff, is a big splotch of utter nonsense.
Don't think twice (thinking won't take you anywhere anyways if you decide to watch Jabariya Jodi): give it a miss.
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