This movie displays Biharis like you would a freak show. Everyone speaks in a sing song dialect, they make silly jokes, recite bad poetry and their goons pull out country made revolvers at the drop of a hat, and point them randomly at men to force them to marry women they don’t like. It’s difficult to understand how a scriptwriter like Sanjeev K. Jha can come up with such banalities about his own home state, and stuff a movie like ‘Jabariya Jodi’ to the gills with it.
The assumption of the film is that cliches work in Hindi cinema and that stereotypically presented mannerisms of a culture and language sell. So even without bothering to teach the lead actors, both Punjabis, how to speak consistently in the local idiom, the makers of ‘Jabariya Jodi’ give us a movie about how the evil of the dowry system has led to an equally malevolent repercussion.
Apparently, eligible men in parts of Bihar, whose families demand outrageous sums of money from the would be bride, are kidnapped by a specialised mafia who put a gun to the man’s head and bring him to the ‘mandap’.
The story is about Abhay Singh and Babli Yadav, who had crushes on each other as pre-teens, and are meeting years later when Abhay (Sidhartha Malhotra) is a wrestler and a local tough running the ‘Jabariya’ business for his Dad (Javed Jaffrey). Babli (Parineeti Chopra) is now a spunky girl who is all over the local news for her viral video recorded thrashing of a paramour who let her down after she agreed to run off with him. She was briefly arrested for the assault, which left the victim injured, most particularly in his nether region. As a result, potential grooms arranged by her Dad, turn her down, partly because they fear similar reprisal, and also because of her now registered criminal record.
As a consequence of these liabilities, the dowry demanded for her possible marriage has reached a scandalous level and her Dad (Sanjay Mishra) is in a conundrum. He is an indulgent father who pretends to ignore his daughter’s active love life by faking his sleepwalking syndrome. Every night he stands at the front door of his home, perfectly still, but with his eyes wide open. As Babli leaves or comes home from a date, he watches her, and she him, but she flirts with her lover, assuring the nervous fellow that her Dad is just sleepwalking.
Frankly, this is the only funny scene in the movie, and such is Mishra’s skill in pantomime that he carries it off to hilarious effect. However, he is not as amusing when he hires the services of the Jabariya mafia to put an end to Babli’s wanderlust. This brings in the thug, Abhay Singh, and old childhood affections are rekindled.
The script of the film reveals itself like a story sent on email, with several pdf attachments. Every time you think it is going to end, lo and behold, another attachment is opened, and there is an extension to the plot. Part of the reason for the endlessness of the movie, is the persistent hammering in of an important, if obvious, social message. Summarised thus, it is: ‘dowry is bad, but so are marriages by threat or blackmail. They lead to unhappiness.’
The lead actors in this transparent film are nice looking, some of the scenes involving bit characters are funny, and the locations are well selected. So it is not an unwatchable film. But with more diligence in the writing, ‘Jabariya Jodi’ could have been much better.