Director: Siddharth Sen
Writer: Pankaj Matta
Cast: Janhvi Kapoor, Mita Vashisht, Deepak Dobriyal, Sushant Singh
Good Luck Jerry, which is produced by Aanand L. Rai and is now streaming on Disney+ Hotstar, is a remake of a beaten story. A poverty-stricken but respectable family struggling each day to make ends meet is faced with the sudden news of a parent’s illness. A huge sum of money is required for the treatment. Such desperate times call for desperate measures. In the case of a hero, this leads him to step into the murky world of crime. And if the mantle falls on the unmarried daughter of the family, she of course becomes a prostitute who is eventually saved by the hero.
But the 2018 Tamil film Kolamaavu Kokila inverts the trope. In his directorial debut, Nelson, considered one of the most interesting young filmmakers of our times, swaps gender roles. He takes the Manic Pixie Dream Girl stereotype and creates a smart-arse and shrewd drug peddler out of her, in a journey vaguely reminiscent of that of Breaking Bad’s Walter White. Nelson neither makes his heroine a lachrymose victim nor does he burden himself of his heroine to dole out any social message, smartly swerving the film away from the path of preachy women empowerment drama. It is a woman’s world where the men are mostly either useless or easily outwitted. It is also a world without consequences — the protagonist is never held accountable for her crimes that even involve murder.
Good Luck Jerry, with a run-time of 123 minutes, is a part-clumsy, part-fun remake of this movie. Jerry aka Jaya Kumari, in a mad-rush to arrange money for her momo-selling mother, Sharbati’s cancer treatment, takes an unconventional route and becomes a drug peddler. The story traces how she uses her innocent looks and her cunningness to hoodwink not only the cops but also the entire drug syndicate.
Jerry weaponises her womanhood in a way that is markedly different from the recent Imtiaz Ali series, She. The movie celebrates the strength of a woman in a man’s world without making her Mardaani or man-like or overly sexual. Our inherent patriarchal mindset has conditioned us to think of adjectives like strong, powerful, and conniving in a very male context. Strength is often narrowed down to physical strength, masculinity. Hence you have the stereotype of a strong woman, especially in Bollywood, portrayed as someone bashing people, mouthing cuss words; liberation is often confined to sexual liberation as that gets you eyeballs as well.
Like the original, this black comedy unfolds in a world of saturated colours that help tone down the darkness that is at the heart of this film and its characters. The colour palette also effectively pops this neo noir out of the realms of realism. And Rangarajan Ramabadran’s cinematography adds to its brazen bizarreness. Debutant director Siddharth Sen (not to be confused with Sidharth Sengupta who helmed Netflix’s superlative black comedy Yeh Kaali Kaali Ankhein) had started his journey as the researcher on Dibakar banerjee’s Oye Lucky Lucky Oye, and is clued into the neo-noir world and avoids a scene-by-scene remake.
The motley cast makes sure each character is played to perfection. Sahil Mehta as the hot-headed, ice-cream loving trigger-happy sidekick Jigar, Neeraj Sood as the caring achaar-trying-to-become-the-sabzi neighbour Anil uncle, Shushant Singh as the menacing drug lord Daler, and Saurabh Sachdeva as the eccentric drug supplier, Malik (the character somehow seems written for Chunkey Panday though) — all do a brilliant job. Mita Vashisht as Sharbati, the hassled mother of Jerry is effective if not completely relatable. Deepak Dobriyal is hilarious as Rinku — the rowdy but adorable local hero in love with Jerry. Jaswant Singh Dalal is good as Timmy, the local dhaba owner who doubles up as the ringleader of a gang of cocaine suppliers and has a mild crush on Jerry. However, his character somewhat reminds one of Pankaj Tripathi’s Sattu in Ludo (even Malik’s den is rather similar to Sattu bhaiya’s office and Jerry’s story can easily fit into Anurag Basu’s Ludo universe).
But this is a Janhvi Kapoor movie. And she shines (a bit too much at times thanks to the makeup and the constant use of golden light on her face). It seems Jerry’s character is built on Lady Macbeth’s poignant advice to her husband to “look like the innocent flower, but be the serpent under it.” And the innocence and naivety of Janhvi’s appearance fits the brief perfectly. We love to criticise star kids and Janhvi has been a soft target. But we tend to forget that the daughter of Sridevi has acting in her genes and her ability to effortlessly switch between emotions is a testimony to that. Yes, her accent comes and goes, and changes, and at times, it becomes too jarring to keep you invested in the goings-on, but she pulls off Jerry with distinction.
The most fun element in Good Luck Jerry is probably its music and background score. The wacky compositions by Parag Chhabra has a Sneha Khanwalkar vibe, and coupled with the quirky lyrics of Raj Shekhar, especially in songs like Paracetamol, ‘Mor Mor’ and my personal favourite Snake Bite, the soundtrack fits the whimsy tone of the movie as well as its stylised violence perfectly. The background score by Aman Pant is equally cool and sets the right tempo for the scenes.
The movie, for a change, has a more realistic portrayal of Punjabis and gets the dialect right. It has two migrant communities, the Biharis and people from the North East to join forces while playing on the stereotypes.
This whimsically funny, intentionally chaotic and creatively quirky film is however not without flaws. The film largely works on situational comedy and it is also where it falters at times. There are moments that are too rushed and one wonders if the makers had just assumed that the viewers would have already watched the original. The expository scenes needed more work from writer Pankaj Matta. The climax, with its multiple Abbas Mustanesque twists and double-crossings, coupled with a tad erratic editing by Prakash Chandra Sahoo and Zubin Sheikh, becomes a bit convoluted and messy. But what I found most irritating is the full makeup on Janhvi’s face for almost the entire duration of the movie which especially sticks out from the more realistic look of all the other characters. And the use of light on her face makes one wonder if the makers got a bit too smitten by her.
The movie is guilty of propagating lookism (discrimination based on physical appearance). It is assumed that someone like a Deepak Dobriyal (the character he plays reminded me of the quirky Pritam Vidrohi played by Rajkummar Rao in Bareilly ki Barfi) is an unworthy suitor for the pretty Janhvi Kapoor and his storyline is played for gags. Also, isn’t it about time we stop normalising stalking?
(Featured Image Credits: Twitter @aanadlrai)