Movies are awesome. They are capable of transporting you from your banal worlds into stories that can range from heart-wrenching to calming to exhilarating to horrifying and, even at times, confusing. Since the existence of this medium of entertainment, films have been categorized into excellent and horrible. When people realized that that was too binary, they divided the scale into mediocre, acceptable, and great. The terms can differ, but you get the point, right? Now, in my opinion, anything on either side of mediocre has the capability to be entertaining, intentionally or unintentionally. But those that fall smack dab in the middle make for the most unrewarding viewing experiences. They definitely have all the right ingredients, the best cooks, and the apt platform to present themselves. And all they deliver is a whole lot of nothing. “Jaadugar” is exactly that; a whole lot of nothing.
Directed by Sameer Saxena and written by Biswapati Sarkar, “Jaadugar” is set in the football-loving town of Neemuch. The story largely follows Meenu (Jitendra Kumar), who aspires to be a magician and wants to marry the love of his life, i.e., Iccha (Rukshar Dhillon). But she makes him realize, albeit momentarily, that he is more obsessed with his capabilities than what the person in front of him is saying. After that, under the guidance of his mentor, Jaadugar Chhabra (Manoj Joshi), Meenu puts his hundred percent into magic and starts doing regular shows. There he comes across a girl, Disha (Arushi Sharma). He falls in love with her within a few weeks, and he’s made to realize the same thing that Iccha tried to teach him. Amidst all this, there’s Meenu’s uncle Pradeep (Jaaved Jaaferi), his football team (Adarsh Nagar Panthers), and his dream of winning the Dabholkar Trophy; something that his late brother dreamt of winning.
Let’s start with the good aspects of “Jaadugar.” The performances are excellent. Out of the central cast, Jaaved Jaaferi certainly takes the cake. Jitendra is the star of the film, and it looks like he’s strictly adhering to the “if it’s not broken, why fix it” school of acting. If you’ve seen any of his previous projects, Meenu is no different. But it works, so what’s the point of complaining? Rukshar, Joshi, and Arushi are fine. But it’s the entirety of the supporting cast that scores one goal after another. Ajay Mehra, Ajeet Singh Palawatt, Sandeep Shikhar, Imran Rasheed, Shayank Shukla, Raksha Pannwar, Shubham Bagri, Nandkishor Chikhale, Ganesh Deokar, Raj Qushal, Sant Ranjan, Shoan Zagade, Rajiv Nema Indori, Sameer Saxena, Purnendu Bhattacharya, and literally everyone else brings in their A-game. And they deserve all the applause in the world. Production designer Payal Ghose, costume designers Darshan Jalan and Manish Tiwari, hair and make-up designer Manasi Mulherkar, and those in charge of the practical effects and VFX for the magic tricks have done a brilliant job.
Off to the middling to the bad aspects. Biswapati Sarkar makes you root for Pradeep and his football team more than for Meenu. In doing so, he makes Meenu the antagonist, while painting him as a victim of circumstance. Meenu starts the movie as an unlikeable person, and his most “winning” moment seems cheap and unearned, which ends up costing everyone everything. But Biswapati asks us to feel good because it’s a moral victory. No, not happening. On top of that, Meenu gets rewarded for being an absolute creep and exploiting someone’s very personal loss. And even that’s rewarded! It’s one of the most bizarre sequences I’ve seen in a film that’s trying so hard to be basic and family-friendly. Sameer Saxena’s direction is devoid of any flair or style. DOP Soumik Mukherjee and editor Dev Rao Jadhav did nothing to elevate it. They just let scene after scene happen. That too, for 2 hours and 47 minutes. What were they thinking? Composer Nilotpal Bora’s background score is horrible. However, the songs, with lyrics by Hussain Haidry, are fantastic.
There’s one subplot where it seems like “Jaadugar” tries to get political by showing the head of the municipal corporation bulldozing an “illegal” building. This move drives someone from the minority community out of the colony. In order to get this, you must read up on how the Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh state governments are straight-up bulldozing the homes of Muslim residents by slapping them with weird charges and then avoiding all kinds of legal proceedings. All this is being backed by the Supreme Court of India, thereby making these incidents some of the darkest chapters in Indian history. But the movie resolves it all so quickly and so melodramatically that the subplot is robbed of any weight or relevance. Again, it is quite possible that, like everything else in the film, the point of this subplot was to be pointless. In that case, good for them, but it’s not good enough for me. If you can’t take an arc to its logical and emotional conclusion, maybe don’t start it at all.
All in all, “Jaadugar” is a nothing-burger film. Everything about it is flimsy and surface-level. It has themes of ambition (or the lack of it), the effects of patriarchal norms, childhood trauma because of the loss of a parent (or parents), and understanding the true meaning of love. However, the filmmakers chose to do nothing with it. They just present it in the most unappealing way possible and hope that it resolves itself on its own. The cast is one of the biggest redeeming points of the film, even though their appeal starts to dry up in the final 40-minutes of this horribly paced, 167-minute-long movie. The other redeeming aspect is the effort that’s gone into making the town of Neemuch a living, breathing place that’s populated by such a diverse group of individuals. Will I recommend watching it, though? No, not really. Largely because the protagonist is the worst. But if you want to be bored out of your mind, go ahead and give it a try.