At a running time of two hours and 47 minutes, sports drama Jaadugar is longer than a football match with extra time and without the thrills of two skilled teams going head to head. Written by Biswapati Sarkar and directed by Sameer Saxena, the script of Jaadugar packs in too many themes, mostly unsubtly, and tackles them rather simplistically.
In the football-crazy small town of Neemuch, aspiring magician Meenu (Jitendra Kumar) is the odd-man out. He loathes football and has no athletic skills. He’s self-centred, obsessive about his crushes and desperate to marry.
At the same time the entire colony, especially Meenu’s uncle Pradeep (Jaaved Jaffery), is focused on winning a local tournament to honour the memory of his brother and Meenu’s dearly departed father. Pradeep wants Meenu to participate, but Meenu has other interests.
After his girlfriend Iccha dumps him, he quickly moves onto stalking Disha (Arushi Sharma), the new ophthalmologist in town. The names selected for these girls—desire and direction—are no coincidence. Meenu obsessively courts Disha, who mostly sends out mixed signals, including inviting him to meet her father while also telling him she’s not in love with him. It’s a very confused love story that lacks any real human moments; for example, Meenu has no interest in what Disha’s father does, even though their worlds intersect precisely.
His determination to marry Disha leads Meenu down the road of deceit. It’s a ridiculous condition laid down by his prospective father-in-law and frankly a good reason to walk away from this union. But Meenu is not a man of ethics or originality. Even his magic show is unimaginative. Disha is assigned a pathetic backstory that somehow justifies her compliance with her father’s unreasonable expectations.
Kumar is quite lost in the romantic and emotional scenes. Good as he is as a bureaucrat biding time in Panchayat, Kumar is a misfit as a romantic hero and more at ease as the confused man with a filmi understanding of love. Jaafferi turns in an enjoyable and tender performance as the affectionate but hurting uncle.
Jaadugar simultaneously follows a rag-tag local football team on its quest for victory. There’s a music composer, a short-tempered librarian, two men called Prashant who could pass off as twins, a mother of two, an insurance agent and a one potential star footballer. The scenes with the team and during matches are the most enjoyable, despite looking like a local cable channel might be recording them. As the team slowly rallies together, their selflessness teaches Meenu his greatest lesson.
Magic, sports and romance mingle in a narrative that could have been far more entertaining had it been crisper and had less reiteration. There are moments that make you chuckle and the film works best when it assumes sporting drama tropes. However, neither the sporting drama nor the love story nor Meenu’s magic rise beyond the elementary.
Jaadugar is on Netflix.