Indoo Ki Jawani movie review: Kiara Advani’s pizzazz cannot save a script that has the subtlety of a scream
Indoo Ki Jawani takes too long to get to its big reveal and once there the film is so completely lacking in nuance and imagination that it soon squanders away the potential in the concept.
castKiara Advani, Aditya Seal, Mallika Dua, Rajendra Sethi, Rakesh Bedi, Chitranjan Tripathy
A young woman in Ghaziabad decides to have a one-night stand to understand the mechanics of sex. On a dating app called Dinder (no, that’s not a spelling mistake) she hooks up with a man whose introductory scene a while earlier had him exiting a busy Indian airport and greeting someone on the phone with, “Salaam waleikum, I just landed.”
In Indoo Ki Jawani’s first hour, the effort to build up suspense about this individual’s intentions and mislead the audience about his identity are so transparent, that you know right from the start he will turn out to be a nice guy (nope, that’s not a spoiler) and that the film will turn out to be a sermon on amity (that’s not a spoiler either – the trailer reveals much more), especially since that opening sentence he utters comes shortly after an autorickshaw driver has lectured the cynical, suspicious heroine with this line: “Madam, just as every Indian Muslim is not a Pakistani, so also every autowallah in the world is not a rapist.”
Kiara Advani plays the heroine in question, the Indira Gupta a.k.a. Indoo of the title. Her date is Samar (Aditya Seal). And the point I’m trying to make in the preceding paragraphs is that Indoo Ki Jawani is not as funny as it wants to be, and its messaging about Pakistan is so in-your-face that it may as well have carried text scrolling across the screen saying, “Attention Please: this film has a message about India-Pakistan ties. Not all Pakistanis are bad people. Some of them are not terrorists.”
Indoo lives in a congested north Indian neighbourhood where every man outside her immediate family is a creep and she the object of their lust. After she learns the truth about Samar, we discover too that she is a woman steeped in prejudice.
A story of a bigot unintentionally setting up a rendezvous with a person whose community she abhors is brimming with latent possibilities. Indoo Ki Jawani, however, takes just too long to get to its big reveal that unleashes Indoo’s inner beast, and once there the film is so completely lacking in nuance and imagination that it soon squanders away the potential in the concept.
Initially, Indoo Ki Jawani does have a few laugh-worthy moments that owe much to Kiara Advani’s comic timing and the script’s unabashed critique of Indian hypocrisy towards women’s sexual morality. The humour wears thin early on though and the attempts to be witty become more strained with each passing scene. I mean, yes, it is hilarious that a woman would rather endanger herself by keeping a terrorist in her house than let him leave and have her nosy neighbours find out that a man had been alone at home with her because, as she explains, “Hamari country mein yahi trend hai. Bandey ki jaan jaaye toh jaaye, uski image kharab nahin honi chahiye.” (This is the trend in our country. If a person loses their life, so be it, but their image should not be spoilt.) And considering the chest-thumping nationalism pervading today’s India, it takes courage to have a character toss out such cheeky one-liners about the country’s flaws. But how much of Facebook becoming Fakebook in this script, Tinder being Dinder, Café Coffee Day as Café Coffee Bay and Zomato as Gomato can we take?
I am a patient person, but even I got tired when Samar is locked in a room and his desperation to urinate is indicated by a graphic titled “peshab-o-meter”.
For good measure, the director inserts Indoo and Samar into a film they’re watching together, in what must count as the blandest, most uninventive bid ever to replicate Dil Chahta Hai’s success with the picturisation of the song Woh ladki hai kaha.
Aditya Seal does a fair job as the hapless man at the receiving end of Indoo’s narrow-mindedness. The supporting cast are not bad while saddled with one-note characters. Advani, on the other hand, deserves a Nobel for Patience for staying committed to her character till the end. We know from M.S. Dhoni: The Untold Story and Guilty that she is capable of acting excellence. We already know too that she was born to do comedy and that she can dance (for further proof, watch her energetic yet graceful moves here to a remix of Sawan mein lag gayi aag). The conclusion to be drawn from this film is that she is capable of pizzazz even when a script runs out of fizz.
Indoo Ki Jawani can be commended for underlining the irony in lecherous elderly men swaying all night in devotion to a female deity while making their real-life neighbour’s young daughter uncomfortable with their cloying attentions. It is also nice to see the film’s own lack of judgement towards Indoo’s sexual curiosity. But the comedy in Indoo Ki Jawani becomes increasingly laboured as the plot progresses, and the lesson on cross-border brotherhood, well-intentioned though it is, has the subtlety of a scream. The subject and Ms Advani deserve better than this script.
Rating: 1 (out of 5 stars)
Indoo Ki Jawani is currently streaming on Netflix.
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