If Madmen and The Crown had a baby obsessed with Hindi cinema, it would be called Jubilee on Prime Video!
Filmmaking is a really tricky business, babu maushaiye kyunki jaisa parade pe dikhta hai waisa hota nhi par jo parde bhi dikhta hai wohi bikta hai! Don’t worry, it’s not a dialogue from the series it’s just something I came up with after watching Jubilee on Prime Video. And with that, I think it’s needed to say that this is not just a series or an ode to the golden age of Hindi cinema but an experience to be lived, known, and absorbed in all its glory and drama. It’s the most expensive series of Amazon Prime Video to date and totally worth your time times ten! Jubilee is so original in its essence yet is nostalgic at the same time that it leaves you feeling like that walk on the beach while watching the sun set down with a gentle breeze on your face, a warm perfect evening with a visual aesthetic sense!
It’s hard to tell the plot of this 10-episode series divided into two parts because essentially there isn’t one as it is a world in itself. It’s just different people reacting and acting to the situations in front of them while colliding with each other. Created by Vikramaditya Motwane, and Soumik Sen, and written by Atul Sabharwal and Prachi Singh, Jubilee is like a world that explores the lanes of what goes on behind the lens of a cinema. There is a studio called Roy Talkies owned by ruthless but visionary Srikant Roy (Prosenjit Chatterjee), his wife, Sumitra Kumari (Aditi Rao Hydari), a popular actress, and a damsel in distress kept chained up. While there’s Binod Das (Aparshakti Khurrana), a worker at the studio aspiring to be an actor, Jay Khanna (Sidhant Gupta), a refugee aspiring to be a director, Nilofeur (Wamiqa Gabbi) a courtesan who aspires to be an actress, Walia (Ram Kapoor), a financer who is a pure businessman with no moral boundaries, Jamshed Khan (Nandish Singh Sandhu), a theatre actor who is soon going to become the hit Madan Kumar, and one Hindi film industry in the post-independent era going through various advances.
The structure and the art of storytelling
The series takes a unique approach to narrating the story, with slow-burn it imitates the narrative style of the era it is depicting, with dramatic lighting, camera angles, heavily-loaded dialogues, long silent stretches having bombastic background scores, editing patterns, and much more. It doesn’t narrate the story from a studio’s or any individual’s perspective or even as a tribute to the era but rather from the entire film industry’s perspective. With action, drama, romance, murder, art, ambition, revenge, class, caste, religion-based bias, and more, the points of view displayed in each episode make up for like different chapters being revealed from this world like short films with cliffhangers. It acts as a bible of filmmaking from the 1940-50s era when partition, Russian-American-Indian politics, and various technological inventions kept changing the game of entertaining the audience.
It’s a perfect insight into the making of a film, even for today, since each dialogue, scene, song, and all theatrics are heavily deliberated, time and again, to give that enthralling moment to the audience. It’s a recreation of the 40s-50s cinematic universe with utmost sincerity! But it only lacks the pizzaz and madness to create impact as the heavy matter story seems to be lacking at various intervals in comparison to the grandness of style.
It’s more of a character-driven story than a plot
The hook of a story is its characters whose real life is constantly rubbing off in a contrasting manner with the fictional world that they end up creating. It depicts a darker side of behind the scenes of filmmaking though with a soft warm tone. It’s a world where financers and producers in the wake of keeping the creative synergy alive combat various forces but are ruthless in the process and end up taking the charge of making the film, and a hero out of ordinary men. It’s a world where a Madan Kumar is created first and then is found! The amazing part is that while the series is not autobiographical, you’ll find the essence of real personalities all over. For instance, Srikant Roy and Sumitra Devi are very inspired by the likes of Himanshu Rai and Devika Rani or Jay Khanna and Binod aka Madan Kumar over the period of 10 episodes show shades of Raj Kapoor, Dev Anand, Guru Dutt, Dilip Kumar, and more male leads of the golden period. While Nilofeur throws shades to Madhubala or Nargis.
And moreover, the storylines of these characters seem to be taken out of the plot line of films of that period. Like the entire arch of Madan Kumar reminded me a lot of Guru Dutt from Pyaasa or Kagaz ke Phool or Jay Khanna’s various phases of life from being a refugee, a displaced theatre artist, a happy-go-lucky guy, a man who is in one-sided love with a woman he can’t have, in short in today’s words- a hustler reminds me of so many characters from the films of 1950s. On a side note, even though real films are not mentioned except Mughal-e-Azam, you can find the fictional film mentioned find grounds in real ones that were made earlier. It’s a dream come true for cinema geeks and cinephilias!
Technicalities steal the show
The script tries hard with its hook of Jamshed Khan and Madan Kumar’s angle but it’s the world-building that steals the show away. The way the production design has been done by Aparna Sud and Mukund Gupta in this series shows you how much research they’ve put in to make this series. From vintage trains, streets of Bombay, drawn posters of films, studios to every minute detail, all of it is a dive into a world that was once existing. Pratik Shah’s cinematography with that exceptional dramatic lighting and a color palette created by him, Vikramaditya, and the production designer make up all 10 episodes with each frame just so breathtakingly beautiful to devour and the color grading is done by Siddharth Meer. This amount of effort towards world-building shows the dedication, hard work, and research that might have been done here to bring forth the feel of the 40s and 50s. Yet not comprised on finding a balance between today’s style and the old one so as to provide a visually-stunning experience rather than being a caricaturist.
Even the costumes done by Shruti Kapoor from Sidhant’s high-waisted pants to Aditi Rao Hydari’s amazing sarees are totally worth checking out. The bombastically amazing background score by Alokananda Dasgupta does a lot of the heavy lifting for the series in terms of emotional depth. In short, all of these technicalities are done to brilliance and help in bringing a masterpiece vision to light. They create a space for emotions to breathe and find a high-octane dramatic tone. The music composed by Amit Trivedi and lyrics by Kausar Munir brings back the chasm of good music coming from the Indian film industry!
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A refreshing choice of cast
From the bravado of Srikant Roy to the helpless yet bold Sumitra Devi, both Prosemjit Chatterjee and Aditi Rao Hydari have a screen presence befitting their characters, uff their eyes! Though it would have been nice to see more of them with a little more depth. The surprising element was both Aparshakti Khurrana as Binod aka Madan Kumar and Sidhant Gupta as Jay Khanna. Because one of them is a constant best friend to the protagonist in films and the other a TV artist still finding footing in this new hybrid world. Both of them expand themselves for a role that would just end up changing their lives for good. Because as much as it was a sweet surprise to see Aparshakti carry a nerve seen before super dark and serious role so well, Sidhant was that charming ray of hope in this bleak-bleak world that always brings a smile to your face just like a Charlie Chaplin or Raj Kapoor. Wamiqa is one of those few who with her swift shift shades and unapologetic personality steals the show whenever she is onscreen. Uff Jay and Nilofeur’s chemistry! And even though Nandish and Ram Kapoor didn’t have so much to do, they fit in perfectly well for the ‘small roles huge impact’ trend! Hats off to the casting team for bringing such sweet surprises with a refreshing cast by giving these people a chance!
Even though some things were lacking – not being able to fully connect with these characters and really feel their pain and plight, the show is an absolute delight to watch. Because you are blown away by the world so much that the lack in storytelling or loose ends doesn’t bother you that much. And who better than Vikramaditya Motwane to create this magic of the 40s-50s again onscreen (hello! Lootera, Udaan)? In this country where people are obsessed with politics, cricket, religion, astrology, and cinema, this amalgamation of history-cum fiction is a must-must-watch!
Jubilee Part 1 is streaming on Amazon Prime Video currently while Part 2 will release on April 14 which will blow your mind further away.
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