Countless Conjugal Complications

4 Stars out of 5 (Excellent); Director: Raj Mehta; Cast: Kiara Advani, Neetu Singh, Varun Dhawan, Anil Kapoor; Hindi (English Subtitles Available),  NZ Release 24/6/22

Are there irreconcilable differences between portraying the full arc of marital strife and big-budget Hindi cinema ? Jug Jugg Jeeyo seems to have found a way out – the judge goes mad, but the partners, ex or otherwise, get a better deal.

Do not expect a serious movie here – Jug Jugg Jeeyo is foisted up and hung out to dry on a comedic framework, fleshed out with semi-serious biceps, flexed with oodles of scandal and outrage. Two couples from successive generations grapple with marital demons, while periodically breaking out into glamourous wedding dance and song. It starts out with comedy, snarls into real-life lament, and after the fuse blows out, the wires are re-set into joker mode. This is what Hollywood market crunchers call a four-quadrant movie – the math simply can’t go wrong.

Kiara Advani and Varun Dhawan jazz up the screen as one of the finest pairs seen in years and decades -  not just visually ravishing but also sharing bewitching chemistry, despite all the lunging at each other’s throats. They’re bolstered by superb supporting acts from Neetu Singh and Anil Kapoor, a constantly whirring script powered by four writers who deepen the broth instead of spoiling it, and rock-solid direction by Raj Mehta who’s relatively new to full-length films and yet continues his hit record like a veteran helmer.    

Nainaa (Kiara Advani) and Kukoo (Varun Dhawan) are legendary lovers. The issue in the fairytale is that they’re still in their twenties, while Toronto’s frost is steadily making their inter-personal devils thaw. Salary, career, the extra mile in caring and sacrifice – all these minutiae and boulders, bludgeon their paradise. Nainaa and Kukoo decide to bury the hatchet until they can safely attend a big family marriage in India without upsetting their folks with news of the impending rupture.

Enter a sprawling mansion and Audi SUVs in Punjab belonging to Kukoo’s parents (this is Dharma Productions with Rs. 90 crore plus at stake – what did you expect – a regular house and the lives of everyday people?). Geeta (Neetu Singh) and Bheem (Anil Kapoor) are loving parents, but little Kukoo has no idea that some more cuckoos are lined up for him. Consolation comes in the form of a bro-in-law buddy Gurpreet (a strapping effervescent Manish Paul) who helps the besieged hero negotiate serial storms.

The film’s biggest strength is its script. It is not every day that you come across a film from Mumbai where grown-up children and their parents have to contend with this kind of revelation – granted, it is half smothered in comedy but the ending does not brush it under the carpet. Early in the story, Nainaa and Kukoo stop by the road in Toronto and bicker with each other – the scene watched by a homeless man out in the cold who sees the feuding couple snug in the car – a superbly constructed moment of levity and insight, uncommon in a big-budget extravaganza.

Anil Kapoor bears the brunt of hauling the comedy throughout, and although he comes close to caricature, I think many of us have seen versions of him in real-life. Neetu Singh, on the other hand, has to consistently portray a serious persona and she does this with dignified aplomb – witness the film’s most powerful scene as her Geeta confides to her daughter-in-law at a water-side bench – a quietly tremendous example of spontaneous acting that outpowers everything – including the background music, which while not being overbearing, could have remained silent in more scenes than one (the message of ‘don’t drink and drive’ is lost in that scene, though).

The songs are a mixed bag, and the best video song ‘Rangisari’ – a sizzling number between the two sexy leads shot through with intoxicating strains, is placed after the film (the target audience has mostly walked out, the Pakehas usually remain till the end). Four male writers pitch in for the screenplay and to all of their credit, women are never taken for granted – see the character arc of Meera (great to see Tisca Chopra spiffier than ever, two decades removed from her first TV roles). Jug Jugg Jeeyo is an excellent example of solid commercial Indian cinema.  

U. Prashanth Nayak is a film and food reviewer and a regular contributor to Indian Weekender. For more movie reviews by U Prashanth Nayak please click: http://www.upnworld.com//upn/movie_lists