It starts off as a romantic comedy alright. In the sense that the young boy is in love with a young girl
Jaadugar poster/picture courtesy: Official Instagram account
Cast: Jitendra Kumar, Jaaved Jaaferi, Arushi Sharma
Director: Sameer Saxena
Actor Jitendra Kumar, quite simply, is the Amol Palekar of the current world/era of OTT/Internet. He never overdoes the prep for a part; lands up as the quintessential, young middle-class Indian man, and regardless of the specificity of each story, convinces you foremost with his presence alone; performance comes after.
What predominantly explains his online success? The theory of ‘relatability’, wherein you’re credibly sure the character he shows up as, could very well be you, if not from within your family or far-off neighbourhood. Which also explains the success of some of the shows (Panchayat, Kota Factory) done by the creative collective, The Viral Fever (TVF), that’s stormed the Internet over the past decade.
Jaadugar is made by a lot that’s branched out of TVF. It’s directed by Sameer Saxena (Permanent Roommates, TVF Tripling). The writer Biswapati Sarkar is best known onscreen as ‘Arnub’, hilariously spoofing a popular news anchor. Likewise, Kumar, the lead, first made his name parodying Arvind Kejriwal on TVF’s sketches. Great to see these guys moving up in life, platform-wise.
Only that it’s hard to tell if this big budget feature for Netflix is a comedy or tragedy, let alone even a film at all. True to its small-town roots, the script is set in Neemuch, a place in Madhya Pradesh that, we’re told, is quite the unlikely football capital of sorts, with neighbourhood teams battling it out on the field, for a traditional cup/tournament, that everyone wants to bring home.
Notably, the local coach of Adarsh Nagar (the always brilliant Javed Jaaferi), whose brother used to be a football star. The son (Kumar) is disinterested. The dream every year is to win that tournament. Except the players are crap. It’s not like they even practice towards that goal at all. They enter the tournament nonetheless. So I’m unsure what the fuss is about.
But then again, is this even a sports film? Certainly trying to be one, somewhat along the lines of Nagraj Manjule’s Jhund (2022), if you may; but hell, no. What you get is minutes after minutes of such vacant nothingness that you wonder again, if this might be a movie on magic instead. The lead character plays a magician; we just don’t know how that profession adds to his character.
It starts off as a romantic comedy alright. In the sense that the young boy is in love with a young girl. He’s equally in love with another girl, and you’ll never figure how this romance developed in the first place, for you to ever care, if he gets the girl he wants at all. I don’t mean this in the way of Kumar’s film debut, Chaman Bahar (also on Netflix), which was a kinda frightening subject of a paanwalla’s infatuation for a local school girl.
The persistent hero here seems less scary, given the object of his desire is an adult doctor, who can ward him off if she so likes. The completely ‘raita failoed’ version of a film that follows therefore entirely relies on Kumar to work his relatable charm and keep you engaged still.
Just that it’s one thing to spoof Bollywood movies, which is how the brains behind this movie, in a sense, started off their sterling Internet careers with. Quite another to pull off a well-structured sports cum rom-com flick, with emotional highs, and songs with top-class melodies, attempting to be A-grade Bollywood at the same time. Hard to keep it simple, I guess. Ambition’s such a bitch.