(Note: Spoilers ahead)
Director: Howard Rosemeyer
Cast: Kalki Koechlin, Richa Chadha, Arslan Goni
I have so much to say. This deathly tacky, 93-minute-long Swedish-tourism advert kind of reviews itself, but I still want to write about the “movie” so that I can personally cringe at how painfully embarrassing it reads. And so that I can believe that this actually exists.
It opens with the classic introduction montage of our two opposite-natured Indian protagonists: a never-seen-before Indo-Scandinavian New Wave adaptation of the “Sita aur Gita” template. You know Jia (Kalki Koechlin) is the needlessly free-spirited, live-life-to-the-fullest extrovert because she is shown randomly leaping, smoking and dancing to imaginary music, an Elvis poster and a ticketing website before disturbingly speaking to an Ironman bust as if it were a hungry puppy. There is no better way to establish this unique character.
A rebellious rock ballad plays as Jia blows cigarette smoke at every possible opportunity to remind us of her recklessly aspirational personality, while sad Jia expresses such stunning indifference to this potential stoner flick that it’s only a matter of time before her new pal teaches her the meaning of unnecessary joy.
You know Jia (Richa Chadha) is the glum, pensive and uptight introvert because mysterious breeze blows through her unnaturally groomed hair in her bedroom while she books a “twin-sharing” trip online (uberPOOL, but for insanely expensive first-world European nations; still waiting for Bollywood to discover couch-surfing or Airbnb during one of their extensive road-movie research sojourns) owing to “insufficient funds”. Because apparently, tickets to Sweden become cheaper if you travel with a complete stranger, book an absurdly huge trailer to drive around in, live at fancy boutique hotels and party at strange and reliably unsponsored beaches called ‘Vodka Island’. Everything that follows is a rich joke, made funnier by the fact that it unravels in the land of Ingmar Bergman.
Once in Sweden, the two girls proceed to convince us that they bear virtually no resemblance to two fine actresses we once knew. A rebellious rock ballad plays as Jia blows cigarette smoke at every possible opportunity to remind us of her recklessly aspirational personality, while sad Jia expresses such stunning indifference to this potential stoner flick that it’s only a matter of time before her new pal teaches her the meaning of unnecessary joy. In between, they attempt to convince us that this is a cleverly subtle feminist journey by laughing at surnames like Lundberg and cities called Lund.
But you know how the old saying goes: “When a Bollywood character is happy, it means they are dying.”
So it is revealed that Jia has liver cancer (the “drinking is injurious to health” disclaimer has been validated), and the other Jia is suicidal because of a Madhur Bhandarkar-designed backstory that involves a dead father and conniving boyfriend.
Basically, Jia wants to live, and Jia wants to die – get it, get it? Their names. It took me a while to figure that out this supremely poignant metaphor. What is a medical revelation without a desi doctor gravely declaring, “I’m sorry”? And what is true love if your new best friend doesn’t type down “What is Liver Cancer?” in the Google search engine?
If Kalki and Richa simply wanted to take a luxurious vacation without feeling guilty, they should have just gone ahead. Why make a laughably scripted home video out of it? We all make mistakes. But being reputed actors and spunky outsiders, their mistake is tragically permanent.
An Indian bloke they befriend – his surname is Bergman of course – nobly agrees to marry Jia before she dies. Which one, you ask? Does it matter? When asked why, he generously explains, “Where else can you find such a wife?” He said it; of course every man’s dream wife is one who dies within a week of the wedding.
Meanwhile, sad Jia signs up at a Swedish Organ donor center called ‘Live Death to the Fullest’. Do you see where this is heading? Now just think of the poor guy who has agreed to marry Jia. If she lives, he is stuck. He will become the victim of perhaps the cruelest joke ever pulled on a man. He should hope that this harebrained “you go girl!” friendship doesn’t result in a liver transplant that rivals Adhyayan Suman’s heart-and-personality transplant in Shekhar Suman’s Heartless.
By that logic, does this mean that Jia will imbibe the qualities of her friend and become a boring teetotaler? Worse, does this mean that Jia will then become suicidal? Because that’d be the mother of all ironies. Questions, questions.
If Kalki and Richa simply wanted to take a luxurious vacation without feeling guilty, they should have just gone ahead. Why make a laughably scripted home video out of it? We all make mistakes. We all have temporary lapses in judgment (and insanity). But being reputed actors and spunky outsiders, their mistake is tragically permanent. Their mistake is a full-length feature film that cannot be forgotten or wiped out from the memory of a handful of film critics and the six paying fans that might brave reviews to see Sweden for the last time ever in a Hindi film.
Watch the trailer of Jia Aur Jia here: