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Jugjugg Jeeyo review: Stuck in the middle with you

Raj Mehta's film is neither a witty enough divorce comedy nor an emotionally satisfying drama 

Kiara Advani and (right) Varun Dhawan in ‘Jugjugg Jeeyo’
Kiara Advani and (right) Varun Dhawan in ‘Jugjugg Jeeyo’

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Jugjugg Jeeyo starts efficiently, collapsing the romance of Kukoo (Varun Dhawan) and Naina (Kiara Advani) into a musical number, before skipping ahead five years, with the couple shivering on a street in Toronto, on the verge of a breakup. Another Dharma production, Baar Baar Dekho (2016), had used a similar montage for its opening credits. There’s nothing wrong with Dharma reworking its own ideas—it’s touching that they still watch Baar Baar Dekho—but launching straight into the estrangement is a bold move. It basically says: we’ll give you enough over the course of the film to make you root for them.

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That never really happens. By the end, I knew as much about Naina (focused on career) and Kukoo (no stated ambition, feels insecure because of his wife’s success) as I did in the first 10 minutes. Were they ever compatible? What do they talk about in bed at night? How crucial was their decision not to have kids? There’s no depth to their relationship—its only characteristic is its failing. And there’s nothing to distinguish them as individuals either: no interests, no quirks, no spark. At no point can we say, as we might of Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell in His Girl Friday (1940), they really shouldn’t be together, but we can see why they can’t stay apart.   

Naina and Kukoo agree to wait for his sister’s wedding in Patiala to be over before they tell their families they’re divorcing. Then, one night, Kukoo’s blithe, boisterous father, Bheem (Anil Kapoor), gets drunk and tells his son he’s leaving his mother, Geeta (Neetu Singh). A lot of sketchily written, drawn-out comedy follows: Bheem introducing his son to his new flame at a movie screening; Kukoo and his gabru cliché brother-in-law, Gurpreet (Manish Paul), assuming that Bheem’s libido needs an outlet and trying to set him up with a girl at a party. 

Belatedly, Jugjugg Jeeyo decides that it wants to be a full-tilt drama. Director Raj Mehta and writer Rishhabh Sharma raise temperatures too quickly; all of a sudden, Advani and Dhawan are yelling at each other like an outtake from Marriage Story. A much better scene is the one where Geeta has a drink with Naina and sadly explains why she and Bheem never made sense until they somehow did, at which point it was too late. Whatever we think of Geeta’s choices, we understand her better after this, whereas Naina warming to her husband feels like a consequence of there being 15 minutes left in the film (150 minutes long, for some reason).

Anil Kapoor, who's coming off a great weary performance in Thar, can’t do any wrong of late—even if this film doesn’t give him the opportunity to do much right. His lightness of touch is all the more evident next to Dhawan’s laboured mugging and Advani’s bland paycheck-collecting turn. Prajakta Koli, as Kukoo’s sister, is quick and funny. But the film is leaden and long, lacking the wit we look for in a divorce comedy, or the finesse required to turn this contrived plot into emotionally compelling drama.    

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