Janhit Mein Jaari is a film with a noble message but misses out on making its larger point. Writes Manjulaa Shirodkar
Janhit Mein Jaari starring Nusrratt Bharuccha is the latest to climb onto the bandwagon of films set in smaller cities of India revolving around current, pressing social issues. The intent is noble, the effort sincere and acting genuine. Still, something seems amiss in this two-and-a-half-hour long film which makes its point in the first 30 minutes and then lets things slide.
So, as Manokamna Tripathi, Bharuccha is this educated girl looking out for a job, while her parents are looking out for a groom for her. Her mother (played by Sapna Sand who seems intent on replicating Seema Pahwa’ chirpy and entirely lovable persona of a haranguing mother to Kriti Sanon in Bareilly Ki Barfi) sets her a deadline for a month failing which Manokamna aka Mannu will have to marry. As it turns out, after several failed interviews at random workplaces, Mannu agrees to a job without learning about the profile since it offers good money, only to realise that she is now a salesperson for condoms!
From then on, Mannu’s reluctance coupled with embarrassment and her efforts to sell condoms in Chanderi, a B-tier city in Madhya Pradesh is really a journey that’s desperate to make a point. It spells out in black and white that condoms are meant for protection, not pleasure alone.
It reaches out to the women (on screen and off it) appealing to them to encourage its use, when it fails to convince the men to pick up the packets and all they do is snigger. It challenges the patriarchal system represented by the inimitable Vijay Raaz who as Mannu’s father-in-law Keval Prajapati (don’t miss the intended pun) is disapproving of his daughter-in-law being a condom saleswoman. Social pressures, embarrassment, snide remarks by the neighbours and of course, his own ego are only some reasons for his disapproval.
Supported by her boss played by the talented and nuanced Brijendra Kala; husband Ranjan essayed by newbie Anud Singh Dhaka and a childhood friend played by Paritosh Tripathi, Mannu does her best under the circumstances to stay on course. But Janhit Mein Jaari misses out on more than a few counts.
For instance, the plot is weak in as much as it makes a point right early on and then the director Jai Basantu Singh along with his screenwriters Raaj Shandiliyaa, Ranjan Agarwal and Sonali Singh lose steam. The film is repetitive in tone with characters either for or against Mannu which is where Janhit … falls flat. With hardly any evolution of any of the characters, it feels monotonous and dry.
In a country burgeoning under the weight of its collective population, it is a film which needed to be made. But it fails to connect. How can it, when it is actually addressing women rather than the men responsible for buying condoms in the first place? How can it, when it ignores an entire section of society which considers birth control ‘haraam’and believes that it is their right to be producing babies as sanctioned by their religion? How can it be convincing when Bharuccha steps out to convince village women suddenly rather than address the ones in her city first and finds no reaction from them?
If at all, Janhit… has its occasional moments – like the argument sequence when Mannu tells Ranjan that he has to failed to stand up to his father – whether it is for her job or their marriage; like when one of her sisters-in-law is checking out the bodybuilder neighbour; like when Raaz discovers that Mannu is doing television commercials for her product… but they lose out to the larger picture. Like we said, the subject had everything going for it. If only it had been a little more nuanced and a lot more convincing, it would have pulled in audiences too.
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Manjulaa Shirodkar (nee Negi) is an established film critic and author, having worked in leading national publications. She is also a Film Selection Committee member for various film festivals.