June 6, 2022
by Carla Hay
Directed by Divyang Thakkar
Hindi with subtitles
Culture Representation: Taking place in Gujarat, India, the comedy film “Jayeshbhai Jordaar” features an all-Indian cast of characters representing the working-class and middle class.
Culture Clash: An expectant father of an unborn baby girl goes on the run with his wife and daughter because his sexist father doesn’t want another girl born into the family.
Culture Audience: “Jayeshbhai Jordaar” will appeal primarily to fans of star Ranveer Singh and absurdist comedies about overcoming anti-female sexism.
How far will a father go to save his unborn daughter from a cruel and sexist patriarch, who doesn’t want another girl born into the family? That’s the premise of the absurdist comedy “Jayeshbhai Jordaar,” which makes up for an uneven start with a wacky adventure and positive messages about gender equality rights. It’s movie with a lot of slapstick gags that work well more often than not.
“Jayeshbhai Jordaar” (which takes place in Gujarat, India) is the feature-film debut of writer/director Divyang Thakkar. The movie is a memorable but not outstanding effort, indicating that Thakkar has potential to improve as a filmmaker. In “Jayeshbhai Jordaar,” the title character is Jayesh Patel (played by Ranveer Singh) is a happily married father of a precocious daughter named Siddhi Patel (played by Jia Vaidya), who’s about 7 or 8 years old. Jayesh and his wife Mudra Patel (played by Shalini Pandey) have been married for nine years and are about to expect their second child together. They know from a pre-natal sex determination test (which is illegal in India) that the unborn child will be a girl.
However, Jayesh’s domineering and sexist father Pruthvish Patel (played by Boman Irani) is the village chief who disapproves of another girl being born into the family. How much does he disapprove? He frequently yells and insults Jayesh for not having a son. If that attitude sounds extreme, consider how many societies still teach that boys born into a family are much more important than girls.
Jayesh loves and respects his wife and daughter, but he also lives in fear of his father. Pruthvish has such control over the family that Jayesh is certain that Pruthvish will force Mudra to get an abortion when Pruthvish finds out the unborn child is a girl. Jayesh’s mother/Pruthvish’s wife Jia Vaidya (played by Jashoda Patel) is predictably passive and goes along with whatever her husband wants.
And if it isn’t made clear enough that Pruthvish has misogynistic beliefs, it’s shown in a scene that takes place with a gathering of citizens in the village square, where Pruthvish hears concerns from the villagers and decides what to do about these concerns. A teenage girl stands up and voices a complaint about girls at her school being harassed by drunk boys near the school. The girl suggests that alcohol be be banned. Pruthvish’s horrific response is to say that soap should be banned instead. “If our girls use fragrant soaps, it’s bound to arouse our boys,” he declares.
One of the not-very-funny-aspects of “Jayeshbhai Jordaar” is how Jayeshbhai pretends to commit domestic violence on his wife, in orderto give his father the impression that Jayeshbhai has “control” over his marriage. Mudra and Siddhi are complicit and participate in this deception. Fortunately, this awkwardly staged domestic violence angle is not a big part of the movie.
Domestic violence is also brought up because Jayesh’s sister’s Preeti (played by Deeksha Joshi) is trapped in an unhappy marriage where her husband Dhaval physically and emotionally abuses her. Preeti later plays a valuable role in a pivotal part of the movie. Needless to say, she’s not the meek and passive person that some people in the village might think she is.
Because “Jayeshbhai Jordaar” is a screwball comedy, a lot of hijinks and hysteria ensue over what is going to happen to this unborn baby. Jayesh and Mudra very much want this child, but Jayesh is terrified of being disowned by his father and of any harm coming to the baby. And therefore, Jayesh comes up with a plan to go into hiding with Mudra and Siddhi.
It’s enough to say that Jayeshbhai pretends to be kidnapped by Mudra, but he actually goes on a road trip with Mudra and Siddhi. Thinking that Jayesh has been kidnapped, Pruthvish and other men in the village go in hot pursuit. There are more antics (some more amusing than others) where Jayesh tries to keep the lie going, including creating a new identity called Jayeshbhai Jordaar.
“Jayeshbhai Jordaar” has very good casting, which is one of the main reasons why this movie can appeal to audiences. Singh, Vaidya and Pandey are very believable as this trio of “runaway” parents and their daughter. Their comedic performances have great timing and nuances. They also handle the more dramatic scenes impressively.
As the main antagonist, Irani portrays Pruthvish as a cartoonish villain. However, the movie has just enough realistic characterizations of Pruthvish to make a point that there are many men who really do have the same demeaning attitude toward women—and it’s not an exaggeration for the movie. Rather than condemn Pruthvish as completely evil, “Jayeshbhai Jordaar” wants people to understand that men with this misogyny aren’t strangers, but they can be in anyone’s family or community.
Pruthvish can be laughed at or disliked by viewers, but can he be redeemed? The movie answers that question in ways that are predictable, but “Jayeshbhai Jordaar” seems to be making a sincere effort in its message of taking a stand against gender discrimnation—even if it will make some loved ones uncomfortable. “Jayeshbhai Jordaar” has a lot of over-the-top comedy to convey that message, but it’s one that viewers can take to heart and also get some laughs from the intended jokes.
Yash Raj Films released “Jayeshbhai Jordaar” in select U.S. cinemas and in India on May 13, 2022.