Dear Asian Youth,
In the past six months, it has become very evident through word of mouth and social media forums that 2022 has been defined as the year for diversification in films. Many have been calling it the “resurrection of original cinema,” with major box office hits like Everything Everywhere All at Once (2022), Portrait of a Lady on Fire (2019), and many more making waves through the social circle. Underrepresented people are becoming more highlighted in cinema and television, and it is crucial now more than ever that this continues, as it is opening the metaphorical door for many aspiring writers and actors to tell the stories they have always wanted to, despite the years of beratement Hollywood has given them when considering these ideas.
Additionally, diversity in film has been spanning across different countries, aside from the United States, particularly in Bollywood culture in India. In conjunction, there are many films in Bollywood culture that are becoming more accessible to Hollywood viewers. Many of the latest Bollywood films are available on many streaming platforms, such as Netflix and Amazon Prime.
A few weeks ago, my family and I decided to have a movie night, and we decided to watch Jugjugg Jeeyo (2022), translated from the Indian language of Hindi meaning to “Live a Long Life.” It is a romantic comedy on Amazon Prime centered around an Indian, cisgendered, heterosexual couple. Jugjugg Jeeyo can be viewed by anybody twelve years and older, as it contains a few scenes of minor physical abuse and rude language.
In the film, The wife, Nainaa, is the breadwinner of the couple, earning a six-figure salary at a reputable business company. Her husband, Kuldeep “Kukoo” Saini, works as a bouncer for a nightclub. Because of Kukoo’s dissatisfaction with his career combined with his lack of love for life, Kukoo and Nainaa’s relationship is at a crossroads despite being married for almost five years. After the two of them have the same realization that their relationship has been stagnant for a while at an anniversary dinner, Nainaa and Kukoo know they have familial obligations to worry about and must be in attendance for the wedding of Ginny, Kukoo’s younger sister. While at the wedding, Nainaa and Kukoo go back and forth debating whether to bring their marital concerns to the ears of Kukoo’s parents, as they do not want to use Ginny’s wedding as a means for them to sour the celebration and want to maintain the peace. Little do the couple know, the rest of Kukoo’s family have secrets of their own that they’ve been hiding from the two of them.
While the director, Raj Mehta, attempts to incorporate some humor into Jugjugg Jeeyo, the film discusses serious topics, like divorce, emotional relationships, the divide between love and lust, career hierarchy, and both cultural and traditional standards set towards women. Without giving away any spoilers, Jugjugg Jeeyo attempts to balance all these topics and get every point across, although some scenes are dragged on for longer than necessary, and miss the chance to seamlessly transition to the next point.
Aside from some inane dialogue, over-convoluted plot points at times, an endless stream of degradation for ALL characters involved, as well as the side characters/extras present at the wedding, this is a surprisingly entertaining film. The actress who played Nainaa, Kiara Advani, helmed her role very well and displayed a solid performance. It has been a long time since I have immersed myself in the wonderous world of Bollywood dramas, so I had not seen Advani’s filmography prior to this film. On the other hand, Kukoo, played by Varun Dhawan, had some great leg moves in one of the hip hop dance numbers, and it was amazing to see how his dancing abilities have evolved over the last few years in the films he has starred in.
Looking deeper at the social and emotional issues tackled in the film, I felt empathetic towards every character at certain points, and found myself agreeing with both the best and the worst parts of the film. This is not a perfect film by any means but it offers a more progressive look into modern marriage in Indian culture, which is a world that I definitely do not wish to explore for a while.
In Indian culture, marriage is constantly celebrated and brought into discussion the minute any girl turns a significant age. From twelve to twenty-one, some random uncle or aunty will find a way to sneak the topic into conversation. It is sad to see “love” forced onto people this way, especially at pivotal points, where many girls are still trying to figure out who they are and what they want to do before even considering the idea of marriage. In my household, my dad has been hinting at the idea of me getting married in the next year or so. I verbally retort my destment of the idea to him everytime he brings it up, and I think after watching the film, he’s getting the hint.
This film is important today because it provides interesting insight into family dynamics when faced with relationship strain. Despite its two-and-a-half-hour runtime, I think it’s worth the watch. It presents itself as an interesting film to show your non-Indian friends just how out of hand some relationships can get, especially in different cultures where the rules and social norms are unfamiliar to someone who did not grow up from that background.
Indian people, of the older generations specifically, are used to the societal prejudices that have been passed down from generation to generation regarding the subject matter of divorce and career status. Thus, having a film like this garner traction on a major streaming platform is a huge step for
Indian audiences to start broadening their perspectives about the ideas of divorce and marriage at the dining table. Not everybody wants to follow tradition, and it is prevalent from the influence of social media that many people, especially those of the younger generations, are beginning to see this point of view on these topics. There will not be major acceptance overnight, but this film will spark conversation about biting social topics and may even have people feeling better about their current life situations after watching the film, particularly if they view it from a more cynical perspective.
Editors: Rachel C., Cathay L., Joyce P., Lang D.
Photo Credits: Dharma Productions/Viacom18 Studios