When it comes to social messages, Bollywood has rarely managed to get it a hundred per cent right. That’s why Ranveer Singh’s Jayeshbhai Jordaar, with an important message for the people of this country, was eagerly awaited. Not only did it have the promise of a story well told, but the film also gave us a cast that significantly elevated the audience’s expectations. Directed by Divyang Thakkar, Jayeshbhai Jordaar features Ranveer Singh and Bollywood newcomer Shalini Pandey in the lead roles, with Boman Irani, Ratna Pathak Shah, Puneet Issar, and debutante Jia Vaidya.
As the trailer suggested, the theme of Jayeshbhai Jordaar is highly disturbing. The film begins with timid Jayesh (Ranveer Singh) and his scared wife Mudra (Shalini Pandey) at a maternity clinic that performs the illegal practice of prenatal sex determination. Boman Irani plays the patriarch of the family supported by his wife Jashoda, portrayed by Ratna Pathak Shah. Jayesh’s father is a misogynist patriarch who thinks women are only good for birthing sons. If girls are being harassed on their way to school, he faults women for using scented soaps and “enticing” men. So, it’s obvious that he wants nothing to do with his granddaughter, the feisty nine-year-old Siddhi (Jia Vaidya). His wife too is determined to have a grandson, regardless of her daughter-in-law’s failing health after six abortions. To keep his parents happy, Jayesh has to pretend to be a wife-beater and a tough, unloving father to his daughter. When he realises that his wife is once again pregnant with a girl, he is determined to escape the tyranny of his parents and save his wife, Mudra, his daughter Siddhi, and the baby girl who is yet to be born.
As part of his escape plan, Jayesh discovers the gentle giant Tau, played by Puneet Issar, the head of a village in Haryana that has lost all its girls to female foeticide and now promises to protect and cherish women who will settle down in their sausage fest of a village.
What ensues is a story told through dark humour that could have left a lasting impression and been one of the best films of the year. Sadly, Jayeshbhai Jordaar doesn’t live up to its potential.
The film uses humour to show the horrifying reality of India. So, if you’re thinking that Jayeshbhai Jordaar is a breeze to watch, you’re mistaken. Rampant violence against women at home and the accepted practice of aborting female foetuses with no regard for the mother’s health are not things of the past in India. Whether it’s rural or urban parts of the country, unscrupulous doctors who perform prenatal sex determination with the aim of getting rid of a girl still exist. The film portrays the message well but falters in its attempt to equate the value of women with their relationships. The sole reason behind stopping this practice in their village turns out to be the same old spiel of women being life-givers, mothers, sisters, wives, and daughters. In 2022, for a mainstream Bollywood film to falter in such a basic premise of feminism, is inexcusable.
Among the actors, child actor Jia Vaidya shines as Siddhi, the girl who will do anything to protect her pregnant mother, even summon a bus full of strongmen from Haryana. Jia holds the limelight firmly on herself in almost all of her scenes. The other newcomer of the film, Shalini Pandey, also does a good job as the timid wife who firmly believes that her only job is to produce a son. She balances the quiet, mouse-like nature of her character with the newfound confidence that comes with her escape.
Ratna Pathak Shah and Boman Irani are masters of their craft, so it’s no surprise how convincing they have made their characters. Ranveer Singh has an unusually subtle character as Jayesh, but the subtlety is refreshing from an actor whose roles are generally loud and flamboyant.
Jayeshbhai Jordaar has its strong moments, but it also has noticeable faults. However, that doesn’t mean it’s not worth your time. If you’re looking for a family entertainer this weekend, book your tickets for this film.