Cast: Kiara Advani, Aditya Seal, Mallika Dua, Raghav Raj Kakkaer
Director: Abir Sengupta
Rating: 1.5 stars (out of 5)
Bollywood is back in Ghaziabad. This time around, the camera isn’t trained on foul-mouthed, trigger-happy criminals but on libidinous lads – and a young lady – and raging hormones. But the outcome is no better. Indoo Ki Jawani, released theatrically, is an insipid, half-baked comedy toplined by a spirited Kiara Advani and peopled by sundry men who can’t tell their brain from their groin.
Written and directed by Abir Sengupta, the film, to begin with, sees the plight of one particular sex-starved pervert (Raghav Raj Kakkaer) from the standpoint of the titular heroine, the guy’s girlfriend who has been steady with him for a year or thereabouts but is in no hurry to jump into bed with him. Therein lies the rub.
Indoo Ki Jawani is a female-centric film. The protagonist, Indira ‘Indoo’ Gupta (Advani), hems and haws and never goes the whole hog. The defence mechanism begins to tell on her soon enough. The ‘wisdom’ of Sonal (Mallika Dua), Indoo’s 24/7 confidante on matters related to love and lust, comes in handy.
This is Bollywood’s woolly-headed idea of UP. India’s largest state is either swarming with malcontents out to gun each other down or overrun social misfits whose rampant sex drives have no way of being satiated. Here, men have only one thing on their minds – Indoo and her BFF never tire of telling us that – and the women are busy devising ways and means to keep unwanted advances at bay.
Indoo Ki Jawani makes several other sweeping statements. For one, all Indians are judgmental. Show us anything (or anybody) in the Mumbai film industry that has ever stopped judging the behaviour of those that they revel in dismissing as upcountry sods as if this is the only part of the world where this lecherous lifeform exists.
But hang on, we are getting ahead of ourselves. Let us return to the beginning. It is high time we do it, Indoo’s boyfriend insists. Come home with the baraat and then we will see how it goes, she says. Sabka break-up tak ho gaya, hamara make-up bhi nahi hua, the boy laments. You mean make out nahi hua, Indoo corrects him. For sure, Indoo Ki Jawani needed a makeover before it was sent out into the world.
Indoo pretends to be clueless every time there is a boy in her vicinity acting friskier than he should. There are many because everybody in her middle-class neighbourhood, from callow teenagers to past-their-prime men, has the hots for her. But the young lady chooses to bide her time because she wants her first kiss to be with someone who is truly special.
At Sonal’s behest, she barges into the guy’s house with the intention of granting him his heart’s desire and instead finds him canoodling with another girl. Cut to the wedding of the very girl she caught in dishabille with her boyfriend. Her kid brother’s feckless friend hits on her. When she ignores him, he spikes her soft drink with alcohol.
Indoo gets tipsy, sheds her dupatta (and inhibitions), and dances with gay abandon to a remix of Mika Singh’s Saawan mein lag gayi aag. The night doesn’t end well. Sonal suggests a change of pace. Indoo registers on a dating site and hooks up with a guy, the dishy Samar (Aditya Seal).
He lands up at her place pronto because Indoo’s parents are away in Delhi for her younger brother’s college admission. As is her wont, she takes her time to size up the guy. And then, the visitor’s true identity is revealed and all hell breaks loose.
To make matters worse, word has got around (thanks to an over-the-top television news anchor frothing at the mouth and doing his best to whip up a frenzy where there should be none) that two terrorists are on the loose in Ghaziabad. Could Samar be one of the men the cops are hunting for?
Before she hits the panic buttons, Indoo watches Kashmir Ki Kali with Samar in order to get into the right mood. Their cinema preferences hark back to gentler times. Samar says he loves old Hindi movies. Indoo’s bedroom walls are plastered with posters of films like Geet, Teesri Manzil, Abhinetri and Aan Milo Sajna, all obviously made well before she was born. It becomes clear as the night wars on that neither of the two is into othering and hate-mongering.
Indoo Ki Jawani turns daringly subversive on another level too. After Samar has had enough of Indoo’s mera Bharat mahaan spiel, he gives it back to her in kind, in the process touching upon both rising religious intolerance and the issue of women’s safety in India. Filmy dialogue maaro aur kamiya chhupao (resort to movie dialogues and hide your failings), he scoffs her.
The rest of the exchange is of a strictly puerile nature. Among other things, it veers, as any such debate in a Hindi movie does, towards cricket and music. Samar gets a word in edgewise on how Indian musicians brazenly lift compositions from the world over. Ouch, it hurts!
Indoo Ki Jawani also takes gentle swipes at the hypocrisy of a society where the guardians of morality wear religiosity like a flashy gown to conceal their ugly underbelly. So, while Indoo struggles not to let Samar venture too close to her, the nasty, nosey neighbours are at an all-night jagran where three randy uncles – played by Rakesh Bedi, Chitranjan Tripathy and Rajendra Sethi – cannot stop ‘worrying’ about Indoo’s well-being.
Indoo Ki Jawani does not, however, sufficiently build upon these ideas. It is too focused on mining laughs from the girl’s awkward attempts to lose her virginity. The film strives not to allow the heroine’s agency to be reduced to a joke and makes a afir bit of headway. But overall there is more drudgery than drollery on offer.
Kiara Advani tries to spice things up and Aditya Seal does his bit to shore up the flimsy affair but to no avail. Indoo Ki Jawani is steadfastly unamusing because the heroine’s youthful exuberance is never allowed to rise above the juvenile.