Jaadugar, Netflix India’s latest original film, is a truly confusing film whichever way you choose to slice it. For one thing, it’s the first film from Posham Pa Pictures – the new production company formed by the OG TVF gang. After something of an internal shake-up, some of the key creative voices that made TVF what it is today left to create their own outfit. Directed by Sameer Saxena and written by Biswapati Sarkar, Jaadugar is the first feature film from this new venture. Biswapati Sarkar, Nidhi Bisht, Amit Golani, Sameer Saxena, Saurabh Khanna – the household names behind this film are the same core creative team responsible for TVF gems like Humorously Yours, Yeh Meri Family, Permanent Roommates, Tripling and early seasons of Kota Factory, Hostel Daze and Panchayat, to name a few. Read also : Ranveer vs Wild review with Bear Grylls: Actor cries, eats maggots, misses Deepika Padukone
Although billed as a light-hearted, adult-friendly, and also sporty romantic comedy, Jaadugar works best as a mystery thriller. And there are several mysteries to unpack here. First – how and why talented and experienced storytellers like these made a film like this. What were they going to do? Or the mystery of why everyone involved thought a 3-hour, slow-burn, streaming light comedy was a good idea. Or – perhaps the biggest puzzle of all – what exactly the plot is.
It’s not easy to distill the puzzle of a plot into a few lines, but I’ll do my best. It’s the story of a magician who must choose between his hatred of football and the woman he loves. Or perhaps a reluctant footballer who must choose between his love of magic and his true love? Or a lover who must choose between magic and football? It’s basically three hours of “pick a card, any card, not this card, oh wait it’s a yellow card, no it’s a red card” all to finally print out a wedding card. Basically, somewhere in Posham Pa Pictures’ office, there’s a whiteboard with a Venn diagram with “football”, “stage magic” and “love story” drawn on it, the unlikely random intersection of which was used to design this scenario.
Jaadugar is located in the small town of Neemuch. In the world of film, it’s a football-obsessed community responsible for producing most of the national level players. Some even believe this is where Maradonna secretly originated from, we are told. Meenu (Jitendra Kumar) comes from a family of footballers. His late father and his uncle Pradeep (a reliable but directionless Jaaved Jaaferi, here armed with an inexplicable stutter) were all footballing legends. Naturally, immense pressure falls on Meenu to follow in their footsteps and join his uncle’s team to compete in the local soccer tournament. (Think of all the typical TVF tales of young people being forced into engineering, but here, instead of engineering, it’s…football). But Meenu has none of it. He hates gambling with a passion and believes it is costing him his father’s life. (It’s important to note here that, despite what you might think, Meenu is pretty terrible at the game). Instead, his passions lie in performing and dazzling people as an amateur stage magician.
The film’s first stage (which is also the most watchable) builds a sweet and lovable world of humor and warmth. I’m not sure exactly when this happened, but somewhere along the winding road it becomes clear that the movie doesn’t know where it’s going. Or maybe it goes with the idea that it goes everywhere. I was with her until she introduced Disha, the town’s new pretty doctor who becomes the object of Meenu’s affections (a self-confident Arushi Sharma who refuses to be reduced to a narrative device) . I was with him until (through a series of convoluted events not worth discussing) we realized that the only way for Meenu to be with Disha is to win the tournament of city soccer. It’s that key “oh okay, that’s the story, I get it now” moment. Except that it arrives 80 minutes after the start of the film. But even after that, Jaadugar can’t decide if this is a coming-of-age tale of a selfish guy learning to put others first or a team-up flick. with an unlikely group of underdog misfits coming together to realize what they’ve been missing all along was each other. I think? Like I said, mystery thriller.
What is clear is that, at its core, Jaadugar is a love story and follows Meenu’s journey of how far he is willing to go for his love of Disha. But it’s hollow movie love of the most insufferable kind, with grand romantic gestures, multiple lip-syncing songs, and a tone that belongs in a decade gone by. The kind where we get so many “Sacha Pyaar” gyaan – including but not limited to “pyaar jaadu hai (love is magic)” and “jaadu mein pyaar hain (there is love in magic)” – that it makes you yearn to die alone.
At the center of Jaadugar is the key character responsible for binding the film’s many worlds together: Nilotpal Bora’s assault on the senses score that doesn’t heighten the feeling so much as it plunges the emotion down our throats. It’s the equivalent of the background score of being seated next to that aunt in a movie theater who inexplicably cries with laughter at every stale joke and bawls at the slightest mention of emotion as if her life depended on it, thus drowning out everything that takes place on the screen. Particularly unbearable are the “heartbreaking” dramatic scenes of various characters laying out their gory stories throughout the film.
And then there’s Jitendra Kumar who is, of course, in almost every picture. Even the most talented actor would struggle to hold a comedy for 3 hours. But Jaadugar goes one step further and becomes an unwitting showcase for Jeetu’s now all-too-familiar bag of tricks as a performer, especially in the face of lifeless writing. It’s also a film that’s the subject of a vanity project – with an entire narrative that feels built around a single actor with the sole purpose of exposing his range. This is how I imagine Let’s-launch-a-star-kid meetings go at top production houses: “We’ll make sure to show that our hero can sing and dance and do comedy, drama and romance.” Jeetu has an unwaveringly endearing presence and charm and there are times he shines (like in a ridiculous but heartfelt scene where he first proposes to Disha). But for the most part, despite her best efforts, Meenu is an objectively insufferable character who is nearly impossible to put down roots for.
The sad thing is that there’s a lot of promise here – the wonderfully sweet world, the endearing middle class and family humor, that the other characters on the team are given attention and dimension. real ones (a hilarious Raj Qushal as the insurance agent wearing a leather jacket from Meenu Ami, in particular). But it’s nearly impossible to retain any of those aspects amid such a labored and directionless narrative.
A film that feels like the equivalent of watching a beloved stage magician who inexplicably breaks his act and delusions a Ted speech, a stand-up routine, and ends with spoken word poetry. All the while, we just sit there, exhausted and confused, wondering if he’s finally run out of tricks.