Synopsis – The story of a young girl, a crusader who takes up a challenging job selling condoms in a small town in MP, India.
My Take – Over the past few years, in order to dish out the relevance of otherwise taboo subjects which previously no commercial oriented producer or distributor would touch, filmmakers specifically from the Hindi film industry have been packaging their message with broad humor to reach a broader audience, allowing their audience to laugh while enlightening them with the necessary message. A brilliant strategy especially considering how conservative Indian society continues to be.
Joining the growing list of these kind of films is this directorial debut feature from Jai Basantu Singh, which aims to highlight the importance of condom usage and employs comedy as a device to communicate its take on safe sex and women’s reproductive health.
And since it produced and co-written by Raaj Shaandilyaa, who had previously helmed the Ayushmann Khurrana starrer Dream Girl (2019), it also once again sees its protagonist securing a society shamming job out of necessity and bringing hilarity to the situation, until the seriousness of the situation begins to hit.
Led by his Dream Girl co-lead Nushrratt Bharuccha, the film sees her character tap into the importance of using condoms and creating awareness about the complications of an abortion, all the while working boldly in a man dominated world.
Though the narrative is predictable and very similarly in theme to last year’s Aparshakti Khurana starrer Helmet, the socially relevant for the most part makes the right noises. And while, the delivery could have used more finesse, precision and trimming, the performances of the ensemble nevertheless keep you invested in the proceedings of the 146 minute long film.
Set in a small town in Madhya Pradesh, the story follows Manokamna ‘Manu’ Tripathi (Nushrratt Bharuccha), who wants to put her double MA to use by landing a well-paying job. A decision which does not go down well with her parents (Chittaranjan Tripathi and Sapna Sand) who give her an ultimate to find a job in a month’s time or else get married to a selected suitor. In her desperation, she ends up accepting the job offered to her by a condom manufacturer (Brijendra Kala), who sells the Little Umbrella brand of condoms.
Though Manu is hesitant at first of being a saleswoman for a condom company but later relents as her innovative ideas turn the fortune of the company around. Joining her in this endeavor is her childhood friend Devi (Paritosh Tripathi), who secretly loves her. Over time Manu also ends up falling in love with Ranjan (Anud Singh Dhaka), a theater artiste specializing in small time mythological dramas.
However, her real trouble begins when she marries Ranjan and moves into his very conservative household, which is headed by her ambitious politician father-in-law, Keval Prajapati (Vijay Raaz). And when certain circumstances act as eye opener for Manu, despite backlash, she decides to be vocal about the safety aspects of condom usage especially among lower sectors.
Right off the bat, what may seem like another story set in the heartland of India comes across as a funny and punch-line heavy narrative that addresses pertinent issues like abortion and contraception, especially the use of condoms for safe sex among other things.
The intent is sincere, no doubt. There is a good scene where the idea of condoms as protection is asserted, instead of being used as an accessory for pleasure. Additionally, director Jai Basantu Singh and writer Raaj Shaandilyaa use a generous dose of punchlines and witty one-liners to capture the quirky universe of the people the film is built around especially in the first half.
But by the second half, the tone shifts and it is absolutely clear where the narrative is headed. While some things work, others just don’t.
The two main conflict points in the film, the disagreements between Manu and her father-in-law and Ranjan’s inability to take a stand against his father are over-emphasized and overstretched as the assertive woman fights for herself and all the other women whose uplift she espouses. But still, the writing and performances of the ensemble keep you invested in the proceedings.
Without a doubt, the film belongs to Nushrratt Bharuccha. From being a girl who just wants to stand on her feet, to becoming the person who thinks that this is a responsibility, Nushrratt confidently shoulders this film. She consistently captures the small-town sass and represents the new girl-next-door found in the congested lanes, where employment and aspiration are inversely proportional. Debutante Anud Singh Dhaka plays the part of a quiet, supportive husband well.
Vijay Raaz provides an effective counterpoint as a symbol of the old world shackled by tradition and faced with the prospect of his daughter-in-law selling contraceptives. In supporting roles, Tinnu Anand, Brijendra Kala, Paritosh Tripathi, Chittaranjan Tripathi and Sapna Sand are effective. On the whole, ‘Janhit Mein Jaari’ is a decent social comedy drama that puts an important message across.
Directed – Jai Basantu Singh
Rated – PG13
Run Time – 146 minutes