Thursday, October 31, 2019

Jabariya Jodi: Review

A few weeks ago, Hrithik Roshan was on the big screen, doing battle with the Bihari tongue. It was, like everything the actor does, labour-intensive. Still, honest effort will get you somewhere – after all, Hrithik completes 20 years in Hindi film soon. Will Sidharth Malhotra, whose Bihari accent in Jabariya Jodi comes and goes like a bad habit, be around in 2032? It seems unlikely. You might look like a Bernini sculpture, but eventually people are going to expect you to do the job you’ve been hired for.

And what of Parineeti Chopra? She murders Bihari as comprehensively as Malhotra (whom she starred with in the odd but involving Hasee Toh Phasee in 2014), but a bigger problem might be the “Parineeti-type" character she’s chosen to play (or been handed) again. She had considerable success early on, in films like Ladies Vs Ricky Bahl, Ishaqzaade and Shuddh Desi Romance, playing outspoken, impulsive women. But that sort of adorable impetuosity has become familiar: Diana Penty in Happy Bhag Jayegi (2016) and Kriti Sanon in Bareilly Ki Barfi (2017) are just two recent iterations. When Chopra revisits it in Jabariya, it’s a strange case of stereotype meeting originator.

Abhay (Malhotra) is a Patna tough, an arranger of jabariya shaadis – forced weddings. He kidnaps grooms who ask for dowry and forces them to marry at gunpoint; the girl’s family pays Abhay’s father for services rendered. It’s as barbaric a practice as dowry, but director Prashant Singh and writer Sanjeev K Jha treat it as a joke: Look at those unhappy men from wealthy families who will almost certainly take their frustrations out on their new brides! One such comic scene has Abhay sending up a punctured condom to the married couple they have under lock and key – the idea being that a pregnant woman is tougher to abandon. For a film ostensibly concerned about a woman’s right not to be sold as a piece of property, this is a stunningly tone-deaf piece of writing.

It’s at one of his shotgun weddings that Abhay runs into Babli (Parineeti Chopra), whom he was in love with as a child, before her family moved town. They fall for each other again, but when her father (Sanjay Mishra, visibly bored) finds out, he decides to get her married to someone else. Of course, Abhay is hired to jabariya Babli’s wedding. She gets mad, kidnaps him. He kidnaps her. There’s a slo-mo sad song fight sequence. There’s something about six pheras.

As Babli’s steadfast friend and emotional piƱata, Aparshakti Khurana does his reputation no harm. This is the only silver lining I can offer. It’s been a year of offensively bad films – PM Narendra Modi, Thackeray, Kesari. But anger and disgust will keep you awake, which is more than I can say for Jabariya Jodi.

This review appeared in Mint.

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