STORY: In a regressive, fictitious hamlet of Gujarat, a meek and helpless husband (Ranveer Singh as Jayeshbhai) must resort to guerrilla warfare in order to protect his wife Mudra (Shalini Pandey) and their 9-year-old precocious daughter from the wrath of his patriarchal parents (Boman Irani and Ratna Pathak Shah). Can he muster courage to empower the women of his village & fight the beti-nahi-beta chahiye samaaj?
REVIEW: Jayeshbhai cannot hurt a fly to save his life but has a heart that wants to do better and be better than the misogynist and chauvinistic environment that he was raised in. He is appalled when his father (the village sarpanch) blames the girls and their scented soaps for luring men into eve-teasing. Despite witnessing the blatant injustice, he chooses to be a bystander even as his dictatorial parents go around cursing their ghunghat-clad bahu for not giving them a waaris (heir). They even coax her into taking the sex determination test of her unborn child.
Self-proclaimed custodians of culture convenient to them, the men of the village think it’s their job to police the ghagra paltan (women) of the village and ensure they have no voice. “Girls won’t get husbands if they learn to speak English”, warn the elderly. Is Jayeshbhai man enough to overthrow these age-old superstitions and diktats?
Debutant writer-director Divyang Thakkar attempts to use humour and satire to question social issues like gender stereotype, disparity and female foeticide. The intent is noble but juvenile execution and insipid writing make it impossible even for someone like Ranveer to salvage the script.
The recent Sharmaji Namkeen also addressed gender constructs with a dash of humour but never trivialised trauma. Jayeshbhai falters in displaying the gravity of the issues it addresses as it’s more obsessed with offering quirky entertainment. However, to achieve that, the writing needs to be clever and that’s not the case here. Be it domestic abuse, victim shaming or girl child empowerment, nothing makes an impact as the comic punches rarely land. Ranveer’s monologue on pappi (kiss) comes at such an inappropriate moment in the film that it evokes unintentional laughter. That lone funny moment, too, loses its charm once it’s overstretched. The setting and accents too seem pretentious and superficial. Given the plot, you patiently wait for moments that tug at your heartstrings but they never come. All you see is Ranveer dressed like Ranveer in flashy designer wear, trying to pass it off as rural fashion.
Speaking of the actor, he is a firecracker when it comes to performances and screen presence but the script douses his fire. He tries hard and despite the creative glitches, Ranveer’s energy and relentless effort to entertain keeps you hopeful till the end. The original Preeti from Arjun Reddy (Shalini Pandey) carries her submissive act forward here as well.
For the longest time, Hindi films have worshiped alpha males. Divyang hopes to turn that template around and question false bravado through his timid but determined hero. He also tries to take a light-hearted look at grim issues, but uninspiring writing lets this social comedy down by a mile.
Jayeshbhai Jordaar is a film against female foeticide, gender-based discrimination, domestic violence, and other related activities. It takes up for women”s rights in a rural set-up which thankfully isn’t based in Haryana but in Gujarat. In fact, a village in Haryana is shown to be an ideal place to be a woman, as the men have sworn off machismo and made respecting women their motto. While it preaches a lot of good things, it has gone the comedy route in trying to place these issues at the centre of things. While the idea is fine in general – you are in danger of alienating the audience if you follow a documentary style – the execution leaves much to ask for. The screenplay is all over the place and eats into the good intentions of the film.
Ranveer Singh plays Jayeshbhai, the somewhat wimpy son of a tyrannical village sarpanch (Boman Irani). Get this—the sarpanch bans the use of scented soap in the village as he feels that men are aroused by it. He isn’t happy that his daughter-in-law Mudra (Shalini Pandey) hasn’t been able to bear a grandson for him. When he finds out, through illegal means, that this time too, she’s going to deliver a daughter, he wants to get rid of her. That’s when Jayeshbhai steps in and runs away with his pregnant wife and daughter, Siddhi (Jia Vaidya), leading to much mayhem. How he wins the battle against his father and the village patriarchy forms the crux of the film.
Director Divyang Patel has shown much empathy for women and their woes. He has tried to convey the message that it’s men who are responsible for the gender of the babies, not women. He has also pointed out that violence against women should stop and that the blatant use of sex determination through sonography is illegal and that both the centres as well as the masses are at fault here. Through a poignant scene, he points out that women shouldn’t just act as a silent support system for each other but should actively revolt as well. Also, men behave as aggressors and women meekly succumb to harassment as they’ve been conditioned to behave like that for centuries. And now it’s time for someone to break the cycle.
Divyang Patel has successfully created a likeable hero who is the antithesis of toxic masculinity. Ranveer Singh has been playing macho characters in most films, like Bajirao Mastani and Padmavat, and it’s great that he plays a different kind of warrior here—someone who champions the rights of women with folded hands and a forgiving heart. He pulls off playing the emotional, caring husband and father with aplomb. He’s never played such a kind of character, so it’s good to see him bringing his burst of energy to this mild-mannered middle class hero. Shalini Pandey, who was last seen as the female lead in the cult Telugu hit Arjun Reddy, is in fine form as a demure wife who finds it difficult to rebel even with her husband by her side. She’s a natural in front of the camera and is sure to go places. Jia Vaidya lights up the screen with her firecracker acting. Her interpretation of Siddhi, a motormouth kid who loves her parents and helps them escape, is spot on. Boman Irani and Ratna Pathak Shah have been given roles with negative shades, and being the consummate actors that they are, they essay them with characteristic ease.