Jayeshbhai is jordaar indeed. Is the film jordaar too? Here’s a look at this latest film about female foeticide from a feminist perspective.
I was annoyed! At the theatre, a group of girls in the seats ahead were talking loudly. However, as soon as Jayeshbhai Jordaar began, keeping my feminist values intact, I immersed myself in it.
Jayeshbhai Jordaar is the humorous tale of Jayesh (Ranveer Singh), a conservative sarpanch’s son who tries to save his unborn daughter from female foeticide. This movie is set in the conservative Pravingadh in Gujarat (IRL deemed to be safer for women) against a safe but devoid of women, Laadopur in Haryana (one of the most dangerous states for women). Hailing from the equally conservative Rajasthan, I felt at home with the aptly displayed patriarchal norms, religious fanaticism, and superstitious absurdities.
Divyang Thakkar successfully brings authentic Gujarati vibes to the setting. Ranveer Singh proved his chameleon-like acting abilities, carrying the film on his shoulders along with Jia Vaidya (as Siddhi, Jayesh’s daughter), who is a powerhouse herself. However, Boman Irani’s potential (as Prutthvish, Jayesh’s father) and Shalini Pandey (as Mudra, Jayesh’s wife) went wasted. Prutthvish just chases his son and beats him up whereas Mudra is meek, patriarchal, and indecisive, contributing very little to the plot.
This is a typical light-hearted drama commenting humorously on a heavily-loaded social issue. The plot could have been more dramatic, entertaining, and funnier, but it’s still enjoyable. The girls ahead of me laughed and gasped repeatedly too; clearly, I was not the only one enjoying the film.
Addressing the elephant in the room now – representation. Making a film about female foeticide revolving around a male savior is a bad idea. What if Mudra was the protagonist? What if she saved herself, inspiring her supportive husband along with others? Disturbingly, Laadopur’s men regret female foeticide due to the eradication of “wives, mothers, and sisters” from their village. However, women deserve to exist regardless of their relation to men. Due to their privilege, men make for good allies, but it’s the oppressed who should always lead the fight.
While Jayeshbhai Jordaar has its flaws, it has sincerely tried to make an effort. There seems to be an honest and somewhat informed attempt at countering patriarchy with love and humor. The film’s narrative accurately shows that women can be patriarchy’s victims as well as agents. It focuses on the lack of love in conservative settings which is the root as well as the effect of inequality. Refreshingly, instead of making it a ‘men vs women’ affair, the film condemns patriarchy and the conditioning through which both (and all) genders suffer (unequally). The same conditioning haunted me when Jayesh spoke of love and consent but his message got lost in echoes of laughter because people found the word ‘pappi’ (a taboo in India) hilarious.
Most importantly, it’s the film’s belief that people can change that struck a chord with me. As someone who comes from a conservative background and is living a liberal-ish life today, I can anecdotally affirm that people can change. The experience won’t be rosy. People will try very hard to cling to their beliefs. Even after changing, the loss of their conservative beliefs might make them passive-aggressive and depressed. However, people do hold the capacity to change their beliefs for the better. It takes a lot of resistance, courage, and even more love, but people can change. However, let’s not forget that the onus is not on women to change men. It’s our own responsibility to strive to be better people – all genders included.
As the movie ended and the lights came on, I saw that the girls ahead of me had come to the theatre from their football practice. As they left the theatre vibing to ‘She’s a firecracker’, they walked confidently, seemingly happy with the film, their heads held high. Maybe, the film did leave a mark eventually.