Student Of The Year’s Sidharth Malhotra is the last person you’d think of as a ‘theth’ (rustic), Bajrang Dal type anti-Valentine activist and Bihari top-goon. And he appears wholly helpless on the screen to be able to alter that opinion.
U/A: Comedy, Drama
Director: Prashant Singh
Cast: Siddharth Malhotra, Parineeti Chopra, Aparshakti Khurana
This film is entirely set in Bihar. The soundtrack is pretty much in Punjabi, though. As the crow flies, both parts of India are more or less equidistant from Mumbai, where this movie has been made. To reach several other corners of the country.
And, yet the world being surveyed/portrayed here appears so alien to the filmmakers that they simply can’t get a handle on how to blow its setting/subject into a full-on, hardcore, mainstream picture. Which is essentially the attempt, by the way.
Now, imagine for a second, if the lead of Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge was Nawazuddin Siddiqui. Or that the Gangs Of Wasseypur hero was played by Shah Rukh Khan. Is it hard to visualise? Well, not really, if you consider how Saif Ali Khan pulled off Langda Tyagi in Omkara, right?
It’s anti-casting — wherein the audience is basically shocked to find actors they’ve known all along a certain way on screen, completely transform themselves into characters you would least associate them with. Now this sort of a casting-call can go either way.
Watch The Trailer Of Jabariya Jodi
Sorry to say though, Student Of The Year’s Sidharth Malhotra is the last person you’d think of as a ‘theth’ (rustic), Bajrang Dal type anti-Valentine activist and Bihari top-goon. And he appears wholly helpless on the screen to be able to alter that opinion. No, I’m not talking about getting the accent right.
To be fair, it’s not that Hrithik Roshan — in that other prototype of anti-casting — as math wiz Anand Kumar, had a perfect Bihari accent either. But his film Super 30 had so much going for it, in terms of the subject, story, or indeed the overall point/message, that a hang-up over twang would seem a quibble.
This isn’t to suggest that Jabariya Jodi doesn’t have a message. Very much does. Delivered on a platter. It concerns the phenomenon of ‘shot-gun’ or ‘jabariya’ weddings, where young local boys, who are either rich or well-educated (both being hard to find), get abducted and forcibly wedded to girls at gunpoint.
Beyond which the boys have no choice but to live with it. Unsure if this criminal practice is still as prevalent in Bihar as it used to be a couple of decades ago. But it’s instantly linked to dowry that the bride’s parents can’t afford. So they’re forced to see their unmarried daughters off somehow.
Frankly, if you really want to see a loaded, well-enacted, outstanding film on jabariya weddings, I’d suggest Sushil Rajpal’s Antardwand (2010). As for this, let’s be clear, it’s centred on dance, melodrama, action, and comedy, in a way that masala potboilers are.
Now, there’s only one thing we know about such event pictures. They pivot around the male star, who doesn’t just bring in the masses, but with his image or performance, simply convinces them to sit around hooting/whistling in theatres. Unfair to expect that out of Malhotra as a ‘Salman Khan’ sort of desi dabangg/baahubali, setting the stage on fire, with that glance/look. Unsurprisingly, those around him, the heroine Parineeti Chopra, or Sanjay Mishra, playing her father, begin to pale as a result.
What do you do when the film itself, for whatever reasons (mine are listed above), stops working for you? Don’t know how/why so many people leave theatres mid-way. Simply can’t. You start observing the periphery. And there’s plenty going on here worth the laughs — some of the dialogues, especially (totally crack you up).
You look at the side-actor always standing behind Sanjay Mishra — his comic timing is top-class. As is that chubby young fellow, called “aloo ka bora”, who’s been picked up to marry Parineeti’s character. See, don’t even know their names.
As for the jodi you probably walked in for: How about you catch their hugely under-rated Hasee Toh Phasee first? Audiences have unfortunately forgotten that fine movie (with that lovely Vishal-Shekhar song, Zehnaseeb). This couple might similarly forget this film rather soon too.