Beneath Patiala pegs and Nach Punjabans, beyond the trite yet chuckle-worthy jokes and the familiarity of every Punjabi cliche in the Bollywood book, JugJugg Jeeyo examines the hard work it takes to keep a relationship alive and how easily it unravels and eventually meets a dead end. Even while packing in the Dharma staples — good-looking people occupying an even more good-looking universe — this Raj Mehta film looks at marriage (several marriages, in fact) as it focuses on one big fat Punjabi wedding.
It’s this wedding — that of the family’s daughter — that brings the film’s younger couple back from Toronto to Patiala. Kukoo (Varun Dhawan) and Naina (Kiara Advani) have been sweethearts since Class V, but five years into marriage, things between them are icier than the Canadian Rockies. She’s flying high in a new country, he resents her for yanking him away from his roots. The two utter the D-word at their anniversary dinner, but agree to keep their decision a secret till the wedding in the family gets over. But little does Kukoo know — and this is no spoiler since it’s all there in the trailer — that his dad also has plans to end his 35-year marriage to his mom. That not only gives JugJugg Jeeyo ample scope to crank up its humour and drama — and in the process, deliver a consistently enjoyable film — but also pack in a nugget or two about the importance of family and relationships. But unlike the production house’s own Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna, directed by Karan Johar, that dug deep in its look at marriage and infidelity more than a decade-and-a-half ago, JugJugg Jeeyo is content to simply scratch the surface.
We aren’t complaining, though. It’s been a while since a full-fledged Bolly entertainer made its way to the big screen, and JugJugg Jeeyo ticks almost all the boxes for a fun time in cinemas.
And putting the funny in fun (or is it the other way round?) is Anil Kapoor. The man, as expected, is the life of every scene that he’s a part of — and not only those centred on party or mehndi, sangeet or bachelor do. In Bheem Saini, Kapoor plays a version of himself, a man who refuses to age, dances at the drop of a hat and is always ready to compare body fat percentage. He manages to make Bheem endearing even when the character isn’t mostly likable. The actor’s moments with Varun Dhawan — who is also a hoot, though, mostly sporting his October look, Varun can really dial up or dial down emotions at will — are possibly the best, especially when the father makes the big reveal to the son in the middle of a drunken moment.
In fact, JugJugg Jeeyo works because Mehta — who also delivered an unexpected emotional wallop with Good Newwz a few years ago — has the ability, aided by a battery of four writers here, to conjure meaning even in the middle of all the gaudy madness. Like that moment when Kukoo and Naina break down collectively after an ugly shouting match and organically blurt out ‘sorry’, not only for what’s happened then but for all the years before that. My favourite definitely has to be that scene between Naina and her mother-in-law Geeta (Neetu Kapoor) by the lake, where Geeta, between sips of wine in a plastic glass, sums it up best with, “Rishta ek wajah se nahin toot ti hain. Bahut si adhuri ladaiyon ki thakaan hoti hain”. Geeta isn’t as well written as she should have been, and it’s to Neetu Kapoor’s credit — like this scene that she really lifts off the paper and loads with both meat and meaning — that she makes the character much more.
Kiara looks smashing in every scene, and also stands up and delivers when it comes to the film’s heavier moments. Of the side players, Maniesh Paul gets the best lines, but Prajakta Koli, making her debut, isn’t given much to play with. The music — by a team as diverse as Tanishk Bagchi and Kavita Seth — is already a reel rage, from the signature Nach Punjaban step to the lilting rework of Rangisari.
After a prolonged lull only buoyed by Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2, JugJuggJeeyo may just be the adrenaline shot that the box office needs. For all those writing big Bollywood’s obituaries over the last few months, wait a moment, maybe?
Jugjugg Jeeyo (u/A)
Director: Raj Mehta
Cast: Anil Kapoor, Neetu Kapoor, Varun Dhawan, Kiara Advani, Maniesh Paul, Prajakta Koli, Tisca Chopra
Running time: 120 minutes