Director: Kushan Nandy
Writer: Ghalib Asad Bhopali
Cast: Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Neha Sharma, Sanjay Mishra, Mahaakshay Chakraborty, Zarina Wahab
If I had an Rs. 2,000 note for every time a small-town Hindi comedy begins with a pretty young woman who drinks, sings, smokes secretly on the terrace, speaks about sex freely, vomits, gatecrashes weddings, deceives her family, runs away from home for the heck of it and generally behaves like a hybrid of Geet from Jab We Met (2007), Bitti from Bareilly Ki Barfi (2017) and Tanu from Tanu Weds Manu (2011), I’d be the Reserve Bank of India’s biggest nightmare. In Jogira Sara Ra Ra, that girl-template is Dimple Chaubey (Neha Sharma), a character who pretends to be kidnapped, violated, silly and pregnant in no particular order. Dimple spends the first half trying to repel a nerdy arranged match named Lallu (Mahaakshay Chakraborty) and his orthodox family. She spends the second half of the film trying to break – or maybe unbreak, who knows – her impending wedding to Jogi (Nawazuddin Siddiqui), the hustler being forced to marry Dimple because he was her partner-in-fake-crime for the Lallu heist. Throw in noisy families on all sides, a trash-talking grandma, corrupt cops and an ex-gangster named Chacha Chaudhary – you know a film is in trouble when Sanjay Mishra starts winging it – and you get the glorified gag reel that is Jogira Sara Ra Ra.
The concept is mildly interesting: What if the Deepak Dobriyal character from such stories ends up with the flaky runaway bride? Or, in my eyes, what if the parrot from Main Prem Ki Diwani Hoon (2003) grows feathers and feelings for the Kareena Kapoor character? But this movie is not about Dimple. What gave you that absurd idea? She is allegedly one half of a romantic comedy, but she’s more of the manic-pixie bot in the glitchy software of a male wedding planner who – surprise surprise – has sworn off marriage. Jogi, too, is his own trope generator. He is the breadwinner in a house full of sisters, aunts and a single mother. Yelling at them – and showering them with the kind of mean taunts that Govinda got away with in Kyo Kii…Main Jhuth Nahin Bolta (2001) – is his way of loving them. Jogi first sees a drunken Dimple gatecrashing a wedding he has designed, only to soon find himself working on her upcoming wedding to Lallu. The deal they strike is rooted in a shared distaste for…taste. I’m quite sure she promises to sleep with him in return for his ‘jugaad’ to scare away Lallu, a scooter-driving and sneaker-wearing and tiffin-carrying gentle giant who seems to be aping Surinder Sahni from Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi (2008).
One of Jogi’s grand plans involves pushing Lallu off a terrace while he’s singing ‘Disco Dancer’ on the phone – because how else will Jogi deliver the punchline “he’s dancing like it’s his baap ka gaana (father’s song)” to mark the sight of Mithun Chakraborty’s son paying homage. It’s such a clumsily executed scene that you feel sorry for the actors trying desperately hard to make it look funny. His kidnapping plan is supposed to sully Dimple’s character so that Lallu’s family rejects her on patriarchal grounds. But it’s really just an excuse to have Dimple live with Jogi’s gender-forward family, galavant with his sisters as if nobody is looking for her, wear a burqa in public, ask for beedis to aid her ‘morning business,’ and school Jogi about his own sexism. It helps – or maybe it doesn’t, who knows – that Dimple sounds like a Bandra version of a Bareilly stereotype.
In the second half, there’s an extended sequence in which Jogi sings in a brothel to prove that he’s unworthy of marriage and decency. Watching Siddiqui dance is worse than watching action heroes trying to act. On cue, there’s a sexually transmitted disease (STD) gag, and a sub-plot where Dimple is so annoyed with Jogi that she vows to marry him (by faking a pregnancy) against his wishes. None of this is as offensive as it sounds, but it’s strange that the only winning element – the fact that Jogi and Dimple go to great lengths to be in denial of their filmy feelings for each other – is a footnote to the film’s blatant desire to tickle us. Sanjay Mishra and Siddiqui succeed once in a while, but that has more to do with the performers than the writing. Lallu all but disappears in the final hour (it’s only two hours, but feels like nine), almost as if the film is embarrassed to admit that he ever existed. It’s the equivalent of an adult refusing to accept that he ate sticky boogers as a kid, shying away from the childhood stories his mother is narrating to his future wife. It might have been fun to explore a love-triangle setup than dive into the pool of confused cultural cliches. As a result, the few on-point jokes about Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam (1999) are wasted because of how besotted the film is with its leading man.
Siddiqui can be funny in dramatic movies, because a lot of his comic timing is derived from his ability to surprise viewers with a very unrehearsed grayness. But I’m still not sold on him being funny in outright comedies, mostly because he loses that superpower of being smarter than his surroundings; he becomes part of the setting, and that perhaps hampers our relationship with his talent. He wasn’t bad in a similarly-themed Motichoor Chaknachoor (2019), and some of Jogira Sara Ra Ra’s most entertaining parts ride on his dysfunctional chemistry with Dimple and his sisters. Still, it feels like he’s lowering his standards to service the formulas of the film. It’s amusing when he’s rakish and self-aware enough (like in Kick and Genius), though here he just seems to have surrendered to the Ayushmann Khurrana Lite tone. While the movie keeps flitting between single-screen humour and multiplex approximations of single-screen humour, Siddiqui looks like a misfit who keeps waiting for the camera to be on him again. It’s not ideal – it wasn’t ideal in the same actor-director combination in Babumoshai Bandookbaaz (2017) either – but then neither is the prospect of a female-oriented comedy in which the woman plays second fiddle to the better actor(s). There’s no point calling out the male-saviour syndrome in Hindi films when it’s hardwired into the design of the film itself. When in doubt, give him a redemption arc while she waits with a bottle in her hand. Where have we heard that before?