Janhit Mein Jaari is a ‘could have been’ film, and that is a sheer loss. It shows how to talk about socially relevant issues while being funny. But it tries too hard and messes up completely, especially post-interval.
Nushrratt Bharuccha plays Manokamna Tripathi, a woman who has to sell condoms in a small town in Madhya Pradesh. On the way, she faces taboos and the resistance of her family and in-laws. Bharuchha pulls off the small-town role well, as she had previously done in Chhalaang (2020). But the distinctiveness that is intended for her character makes it look like she doesn’t belong to the town where she is trying to sell condoms to people who don’t like to even utter the word.
Generous dose of punchlines
The film rides comfortably on humour. It has some of the best situational comedy among recent Hindi movies. Writer Raaj Shaandilyaa leaves no stone unturned to make you laugh with his generous dose of punchlines. It manages to make the ambience light enough to talk about safe sex, without diminishing the issue itself.
The screenplay is fast-paced through most of the 2-hour 27-minute runtime, almost to a fault. Post-interval, the introduction of a crisis and its resolution happens so fast that you don’t get time to blink or seriously ponder over the actual thrust of the film: Safe sex and contraception.
Set in Madhya Pradesh, the characters pick up the lehza (mannerism) well, especially Vijay Raaz. He is an absolute gem as patriarch Keval Prajapati used to lording over his family of 15. Raaz is as flawless as ever, as is Tinnu Anand. In fact, the entire ensemble cast does its act well, and keeps you engaged.
Mudda kya hai
So, how do you advertise condoms in India? The film shows that as long as condoms are advertised as a requirement for pleasure, they will not become ‘normal’. Janhit Mein Jaari looks at how in a country like India, it is crucial to highlight the idea of protection more, especially with the rising number of unsafe abortions and unwanted pregnancies.
It is a good cause, but the execution falters and becomes a tad unrealistic in places. When Manokamna’s family accepts her job as a condom salesperson/marketing executive within hours of discovering packets of condom, it feels way too rushed. It takes away from the realism the film aims at.
But there are golden moments too, especially when Manokamna’s husband Ranjan, played by Anud Singh Dhaka, comes to know that his own sister-in-law has had two abortions, or when the elder sister-in-law talks about wanting sexual excitement in her marriage. The comic timing merges with the sensitive topics being discussed.
Anud Singh Dhaka’s Bollywood debut is good, but not quite impactful. The film gives him a half-baked character. Dhaka showed promise and nuance as Angad in Netflix’s Taj Mahal 1989, but in Janhit Mein Jaari, he plays the supporting role. Paritosh Tripathi as the one-sided lover and best friend of Manokamna steals the show. His heartbreak and unwavering support for Manokamna, while balancing a comic act, is flawless.
The issue with Janhit Mein Jaari is that it leaves you wanting more. You do not quite revel in Manokamna’s victory or jump in joy in the end. It is at best a consolation prize despite not being preachy.