Review: ‘Cirkus’ (2022), starring Ranveer Singh, Varun Sharma, Pooja Hegde and Jacqueline Fernandez

December 28, 2022

by Carla Hay

Jacqueline Fernandez, Sanjay Mishra, Ranveer Singh and Varun Sharma in “Cirkus” (Photo courtesy of T-Series Films)

“Cirkus”

Directed by Rohit Shetty

Hindi with subtitles

Culture Representation: Taking place in the India, in the 1960s and briefly in the 1930s, the comedy film “Cirkus” features an Indian cast of characters representing the working-class, middle-class and wealthy.

Culture Clash: Two sets of identical twin brothers are separated and switched at birth by a scientist who wants to test the “nature versus nurture” debate, in order to prove his theory that someone’s upbringing has more influence on their personality than biological genetics.

Culture Audience: “Cirkus” will appeal primarily to people who are interested in watching an aggressively hyperactive and annoying movie with a horrible story about twins and mistaken identities.

Siddhartha Jadhav, Umakant Patil and Ashish Warang in “Cirkus” (Photo courtesy of T-Series Films)

The vibrant cinematography and eye-catching production design of “Cirkus” are all wasted on a silly plot, bad acting and an unjustifiably atrocious ending that ignores ethical and legal issues of deliberately switching babies at birth. It’s a so-called comedy that will bring very few or no laughs to people who care about quality entertainment. The only thing that’s worth laughing at is how the “Cirkus” filmmakers spent a great deal of the movie’s budget on elaborate set designs and visual effects but then made the cheap-looking decision to have obvious toy dolls instead of real babies in the brief time that infants are shown on screen.

Directed by Rohit Shetty and written by Yunus Sajawal, “Cirkus” is loosely based on the William Shakespeare play “The Comedy of Errors,” which has hijinks that ensue when identical twin brothers have been separated at birth. It feels almost like blasphemy to mention Shakespeare and “Cirkus” in the same sentence, because it’s like comparing priceless art to worthless garbage. “Cirkus” is just too repetitive and too stupid to justify its total running time of 140 minutes. About 30 minutes into this abomination of a movie, viewers will feel like it’s less painful to have a circus elephant sit on them than to sit through watching all of “Cirkus.”

“Cirkus” begins by showing the two brothers who cause the chaos that later happens in the story. Sometime in the 1930s, Dr. Roy Jamnadas (played by Murali Sharma) and his younger brother Joy Jamnadas (played by Uday Tikekar) are operating Jamnadas Orphanage in Bangalore, India. One day, Roy and Joy find two pairs of newborn, identical twin brothers abandoned on the doorstep of the orphanage. The two pairs of twins are around the same age.

Roy decides that he wants to do an experiment to test the “nature versus nurture” debate, in order to prove his theory that someone’s personality is influenced more by that person’s upbringing than biological genetics. Roy wants to switch the identical twins, so that each twin will grow up with a brother he thinks is biologically related but actually is not biologically related. Joy vehemently objects to this very unethical and illegal decision, but Roy is determined to go through with it, and nothing can stop him.

The identical twins are switched so that one of the twin brothers is placed with a twin from the other pair who is biologically unrelated. When all four twin brothers are put up for adoption, they are presented as fraternal twins, not identical twins. Roy promises Joy that he will reveal the truth to all four brothers when the brothers are 30 years old. When Joy asks Roy what will happen if Roy isn’t alive in 30 years, Roy gives a vague response that maybe someone else can tell the twins the truth. Of course, in a predictable movie like “Cirkus,” Roy and Joy live for the next 30 years and show up again in the movie.

And what a coincidence: Both pairs of twins are adopted into families who want to name the twins after the Jamnadas brothers. One pair of the fake fraternal twins named Roy and Joy go to the Indian city of Ooty, where they have been adopted by a circus owner (played by Nikitin Dheer) and his wife (played by Supriya Roy). The other set of the fake fraternal twins named Roy and Joy stay in Bangalore, where they have been adopted by an affluent industrial engineer (played by Arjun Nagar) and his wife Shakuntala Devi (played by Ashwini Kalsekar).

After the babies quickly getting adopted, “Cirkus” briefly shows the two Roys and the two Joys as pre-teen children and teenagers. In these roles are Pratyaksh Panwar as pre-teen Roy, Hridansh Gokani as pre-teen Joy, Arya Mahajan as teenage Roy, and Krishna Panchal as teenage Joy. The movie then fast-forwards to showing the brothers at 30 years old.

For the purposes of this review, the Roy and Joy who grew up in Ooty will be called Ooty Roy and Ooty Joy. The Roy and Joy who grew up in Bangalore will be called Bangalore Roy and Bangalore Joy. Just like the brothers they were named after, Roy is the “alpha male” brother, while Joy is the “beta male” brother. Ooty Roy and Bangalore Roy are both played by Ranveer Singh. Ooty Joy and Bangalore Joy are both played by Varun Sharma.

Ooty Roy and Ooty Joy have taken over running their adoptive family’s circus, which is called Jubilee Cirkus, since their adoptive parents have retired. Ooty Roy has become a famous circus attraction known as Electric Man, for being physically immune when holding objects that conduct large wattages of electricity. Meanwhile, Bangalore Roy feels the effects of these electric jolts every time Ooty Roy does these electrical stunts. It’s a bizarre condition that Ooty Roy and Bangalore Roy have had since their childhoods. (No explanation is given in the movie for why they have this condition.)

The jolts are so big, Bangalore Roy can give people electrical shocks that can be harmful if they touch him. Bangalore Roy doesn’t know why he randomly gets these electrical jolts that run through his body and sometimes cause him to convulse wildly. Expect to see “Cirkus” show a lot of over-exaggerated slapstick comedy (that gets stale very quickly) of people getting electrical shocks and sometimes having seizures from these shocks.

Ooty Roy is happily married to a novelist named Mala (played by Pooja Hegde), who can’t get her work published under her real name for sexist reasons, so she uses the alias Col. Vikrant. And what a coincidence: Col. Vikrant’s biggest fan is Bangalore Roy. Ooty Joy has a girlfriend named Lily (played by Radhika Bangia). Bangalore Joy does not have a love interest in the movie.

The only discontent in the marriage between Mala and Ooty Roy is that they haven’t been able to conceive a child because Mala is infertile. Ooty Roy and Mala are seriously thinking about adopting a child. Mala wants to adopt a child from Jamnadas Orphanage, but Ooty Roy doesn’t like that idea. (You know where this is going, of course.)

Meanwhile, Bangalore Roy has a girlfriend named Bindu (played by Jacqueline Fernandez), whose arrogant and wealthy father Rai Sahab (played by Sanjay Mishra) does not approve of Bangalore Roy dating Bindu, because Rai thinks Bangalore Roy doesn’t come from a rich-enough family. By contrast, Bindu’s kind and open-minded mother Chachi (played by Sulabha Arya) accepts the relationship and treats Bangalore Roy with respect. Bangalore Roy has conflicts with Rai because Bangalore Roy wants to marry Bindu, but Rai refuses to give his blessing.

Rai is a blustering buffoon with a sidekick named Prem (played by Anil Charanjeett), whom Rai describes as his “manager,” but Prem is really just a “yes man” lackey and a completely useless character in a mindless story. The scenes with Rai are among the most cringeworthy in “Cirkus” because Mishra’s acting is so terrible. Rai, like almost everyone else in “Cirkus,” is a one-dimensional caricature.

Bangalore Roy and Bangalore Joy travel by train to Ooty, where they want to buy a tea-making farm. At the train station, three idiotic robbers, who have stolen ₹50,000 in cash, are being chased by police. The travel bag containing the money is accidentally dropped at the train station before the robbers make their getaway on a train that also happens to be the same train that has Bangalore Roy and Bangalore Joy as passengers.

The three robbers are nitwit leader Momo (played by Siddhartha Jadhav), who has a ridiculously large pompadour, and his two, less-talkative sidekicks Mango (played by Ashish Warang) and Chikki (played by Umakant Patil), who have utterly blank personalities. Momo is not only one of the most annoying characters in “Cirkus” (a movie filled with annoying characters), but he’s also perhaps the most annoying character that movie viewers will see in any given year.

Nothing that Momo says is funny, as he shouts his lines and makes dopey facial expressions for the camera. It doesn’t help that Jadhav gives one of the worst performances in the “Cirkus” cast. A recurring “joke” in the movie is that after Momo sees an incident of electrical shocks, he hollers, “Shock you!,” in the way that people curse, “Fuck you!”

These simple-minded robbers have lost their cash, but when they see Bangalore Roy and Bangalore Joy in a train car with a travel bag full of ₹50,000 in cash, the robbers decide to steal the cash from Bangalore Roy and Bangalore Joy. Later, viewers find out that Momo wants the cash to give as a birthday gift to a powerful crime boss named Polson Dada (played by Johnny Lever), who dresses like he’s stepped out of a 1970s pimp den, even though this part of the movie takes place in the 1960s.

Bangalore Roy and Bangalore Joy immediately notice upon arriving in Ooty that strangers already know their names and seem to know who they are. Meanwhile, it should come as no surprise that Ooty Roy and Ooty Joy end up in Bangalore and they get, and they also get mistaken for the other Roy and Joy. Along the way, a taxi driver named Naagmani (played by Vrajesh Hirjee), a jeweler named Veljibhai (played by Tiku Talsania) and a bandit-turned-hotel owner named Daaku Bagheera (played by Mukesh Tiwari) get involved in the ludicrous antics.

From a visual standpoint, “Cirkus” has a lot of eye candy, but the movie’s foolish and grossly unfunny story is like overloading on bad junk food. The title of the movie is also misleading, because only a few scenes actually take place in a circus. But even those circus scenes are nothing but hollow spectacles with very little substance. “Cirkus” completely missed a potentially great story opportunity to have the circus lifestyle as a big part of the movie’s plot.

The movie’s song-and-dance musical numbers are adequate, when it comes to the choreography, but the song lyrics are so witless and boring, they ruin whatever impact the musical numbers were supposed to have. The ending of “Cirkus” hints that there will be a sequel with other characters who have a connection to Jamnadas Orphanage. “Cirkus” is an utter failure at being amusing entertainment. It’s more like an overblown, nonsensical and deceptively flashy carnival act that cheats people out of their time and money.

T-Series Films released “Cirkus” in select U.S. cinemas and in India on December 23, 2022.

Review: ‘Jayeshbhai Jordaar,’ starring Ranveer Singh

June 6, 2022

by Carla Hay

Ranveer Singh, Jia Vaidya and Shalini Pandey in “Jayeshbhai Jordaar” (Photo courtesy of Yash Raj Films)

“Jayeshbhai Jordaar”

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.

Boman Irani in “Jayeshbhai Jordaar” (Photo courtesy of Yash Raj Films)

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.

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