Jaadugar Review: Jitendra Kumar’s Netflix Movie Is An Objectionable Relic
Jaadugar – now streaming on Netflix – gets it wrong from minute one. In it, Jitendra Kumar plays “Meenu” Narang, a toxic and insufferable man-child who thinks he knows what love is. Meenu declares that he likes someone the first time he meets them. (Ew.) Meenu proposes marriage repeatedly, sometimes weeks after meeting someone, even if he doesn’t know their last name, let alone what he wants to be in life. (What’s wrong with this guy?) All Meenu does in life is “win over” a woman, not because he actually cares. And along the way, he expects rewards — like a peck on the cheek — for doing the right thing. Jaadugar thinks Meenu loves deeply. But in reality, he’s just a bastard.
And that’s the big deal with Jaadugar — directed by Sameer Saxena and written by Biswapati Sarkar (Permanent Roommates) — in that the new Netflix movie is still on Meenu’s side. Not only does this excuse his behavior with women, but it justifies his attitude and makes fun of those whom Meenu makes fun of. In a seemingly pivotal scene, Meenu berates his uncle for failing and essentially drives him to suicide. But in an absurd way, the uncle ends up being the butt of a joke a few minutes later. Meenu also doesn’t care about his footballing family. Even though they help him immensely, he is happy to betray them and sabotage their chances the next day. Above all, Meenu shows no empathy for the woman he loves after she recounts a dark past.
Jaadugar is not only served by Meenu’s gaze, it’s also entirely Meenu’s world and solely about Meenu’s story. Nobody else matters. In many ways, Jaadugar feels like an old Bollywood movie with a bunch of tired tropes. (Even Nilotpal Bora’s soundtrack seems to be borrowed from 80s felt movies.) One of those Shah Rukh Khan movies from decades ago where he kept chasing after women for three hours and the movie continued to excuse his behavior. (Speaking of which, Jaadugar is 166 minutes long.) These might not have been considered problematic at the time, but it’s clear to most of us now that they contributed to a culture of harassment. Jaadugar’s existence feels like a case of art imitating life imitating art. The new Indian Netflix movie is outdated, poorly crafted and deeply problematic. It is a condemnable relic.
Everything you need to know about Jaadugar
Meenu’s story takes place in Neemuch, a football-obsessed small town in Madhya Pradesh, near the Rajasthan border. Although football may be in Meenu’s blood – his father was a great goalkeeper – he doesn’t like football at all. He wants to be a magician, a jaadugar. In fact, Meenu frankly hates football because it took away both of his parents. (Although that doesn’t stop him from trying to show off in front of his girlfriends.) Since the death of his father, Meenu’s uncle, Pradeep Narang (Jaaved Jaaferi), has been trying to fulfill his late brother’s wish of win Neemuch Inter-Neighborhood Football. tournament. Unfortunately for Pradeep, he coaches a comically dysfunctional team. The goalkeeper is useless with his left hand, one of the players only cares about swag and another is focused on his music career.
And of course, Meenu is no help either. Either way, he’s too busy chasing after the new girl and eye doctor in town, Dr. Disha Chhabra (Arushi Sharma). And he continues to do so even though she repeatedly notes that she is not interested in him. Less than a month after seeing Disha for the first time, Meenu shows up with an elephant and a marriage proposal on her doorstep. It’s crazy and hilarious. Disha finally tells her that she will only marry someone if her father accepts her. And because Jaadugar is beyond comical, Disha’s father asks Meenu to do the impossible: win the football tournament. Meenu, who had no interest in helping Pradeep, turns over a new leaf. He finds a fantastic new player for the team, forces Disha to develop a better training regimen, and even performs a few of his magic tricks.
But the focus never really shifts from Meenu and his attempts to “win over” Disha. That’s why, despite a runtime that can rival The Godfather — that epic is only nine minutes longer than that terrible Netflix production — Jaadugar never really develops any of the surrounding actors, the motley crew that make up the coach Pradeep’s football team. Most of them are used simply for comic relief, which is why almost all of them have “quirks”. In some cases though, these can be downright problematic. The character of Jaaferi, for example, is stuttered. Add to that the fact that he turned out to be weak and a loser, and you end up with an irresponsible overtone. Jaadugar basically implies that those who have a speech impediment are unable to achieve success in life.
Jaadugar, Resident Evil, The Gray Man and More Coming to Netflix in July
There are more problematic elements elsewhere. In the final match, the opponents engage in verbal sexual harassment, a guy “protects” the woman by physically fighting back, and the incident is never addressed again. It’s just a plot point that drives the game of football forward. (Speaking of football, Jaadugar shows no understanding of the beautiful game. I can tolerate that on a big show like Ted Lassobut here, in a movie that could never sidetrack me, it just pissed me off.) With meaningless, convoluted twists, Jaadguar occasionally borders on a parody of himself, before sinking into complete parody in the final few minutes.
Meanwhile, Meenu repeatedly approaches Disha’s ignition, sells her team out of love, and shows no appreciation for how people help her. Still, he ends up being the “winner” at the end of Jaadugar, even getting the stamp of approval from the woman’s father. This despite the fact that he showed no character growth throughout the punishing run. Jaadugar assumes that Meenu doesn’t know what love is, but two and a half hours later, Meenu is still – inexplicably – the same person. He doesn’t learn anything during the whole film. And the fact that Netflix India continues to produce originals of this quality indicates that it hasn’t learned anything either.
Can someone wave their wand and make this movie disappear? Thanks.
Jaadugar is out on Friday, July 15 at 12:30 PM IST on Netflix worldwide.
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