It can be either a boon or a bane walking into a film having no remote idea what it's about. Sometimes, films have the ability pleasantly surprise you because you don't have a performed bias for or against them based on plethora of pre-release materials. Other times, you wonder if Cinema has fallen so far that films like Jalebi are produced at the cost of crores without a second thought to its creative strengths and who is put in charge of it.
There's no doubt that this is a Bhatt Camp film out and out, sentimental claptrap about a doomed romance that has been greenlit only on one basis: inclusion of a socially relevant issue that nobody associated with this film has any passion or belief in.
Jalebi is a film trying to deal with difficulties after marriage, the unsaid rule to start reproducing as soon as the final vows are said and the final incantation is chanted. It hopes to provide a more conservative, freely reproducing indian society with important insight into the toll giving birth to a new life takes on women, who feel compelled to take on the thankless role of a mother and how the loss of a loved one has the ability to completely change the course of future life as you had imagined it.
Instead, this turns out to be a film in which dialogues like "aap meri Beti ko 2 minute ke liye dekh lijiye, main ek minute mein aati hoon" are said without any intentional humor and the maturity of the writing includes showing your main female lead bond with a stranger's kid named Pulti she has just met on the train by distracting her by askig if she can kiss her own elbow.
This is the kind of film where you know there's obviously going to be some tacky explaination for the title but the in-film reference to it turns out to be a lot worse (and more inconsequential) than you might think. Where random characters pop up without any relevance to the plot and their subplots are given passing importance only to act as a set up for a single song in the middle of a Mumbai local train by a famous singer.
What's worse is that the amateur filmmaking, with its over reliance on needless close-ups which makes bad acting look worse and tacky dubbing (in fact, the overall sound design and editing) that's only reserved for super cheap Bhatt productions, is still a more forgiveable crime. What truly sinks the film is the lack of complexity and deeper understanding in dealing with a subject like this. The writers' (Kausar Munir and Pushpdeep Bhardwaj) and the director's (Bhardwaj) idea of dealing with the loss of a child is the filmy notion of getting beaten up by random street thugs for no reason, except they don't even follow through on that. Director Bhardwaj's idea of what reproductive rights are and the issues women have to face on a daily basis to fight for them is that of a school kid who has been blindly given the topic he has no idea about during a debate competition and he is now trying to give the most vague opinions for the motion for the next few minutes to pass off as smart. I heard a woman sitting next to me sighing audibly at the silliness of it all.
Their sensitivity towards a topic like suicide is to casually bring it up in the beginning and then keep stressing upon that moment by spoon feeding the dialogue again as a Voice Over callback to it. Somebody told them incorporating a current social issue into your film is a hot-selling trend. They forgot to tell them to treat the issue with sincerity. And now here we are.
The narrative structure is horrendous, with little to no threads connecting the two timelines as we alternate between them. Sometimes, the back and fro happens only when the director remembers that there's two parallel tracks to be told. The interval point, which culminates all the build up of the first half, lands with the dramatic weight of a feather. There's 5 songs too many. The actors are too wet behind their ears to lend any emotional gravitas to their parts, with Rhea Chakraborty lacking the self control and debutante Varun Mitra coming with just one stock expression setting.
I could easily make jokes at the expense of Jalebi's name, talking about how the actual sweet dish is bad for your health but worth the risk but this film doesn't even deserve that much effort. Avoid it. Don't watch it. It's a no no.
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