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India Currents gave me a voice in days I was very lost. Having my articles selected for publishing was very validating – Shailaja Dixit, Executive Director, Narika, Fremont
Jaadugar (or magician) is a 2022 Hindi-language (also dubbed in English and Telugu) sports drama/comedy film directed by Sameer Saxena and written by Biswapati Sarkar, and produced by a new production company, Posham Pa Pictures.
The film features Jitendra Kumar and Arushi Sharma in lead roles. Jitendra Kumar is well known and admired for his roles in TV series like Panchayat, and Kota factory.
In Jaadugar, Kumar (as Meenu Narang) is comfortable in front of the camera and can improvise naturally. But the script/editing by Dev Rao Jadhav is so convoluted that it does not do Kumar complete justice. Perhaps Kumar is trying to portray a feckless guy in small town, India; if so, he succeeds at it.
The female lead actor Arushi Sharma (known for her roles in Love Aaj Kal and Tamasha) as Disha Chhabra has a natural appeal. She is well cast as an ophthalmologist, considering Neemuch in Madhya Pradesh is known as the “Eye donation capital” of India. She retracts Meenu’s eyes with aplomb but is recruited by the team to work as the failing football team’s doctor?
Javed Jaffrey, as Pradeep Narang, and Manoj Joshi as magician Chhabra and also Disha’s father, are underutilized as veteran actors who can carry their own weight effortlessly.
The plot is set in the small football-crazy town of Neemuch, where a wanna-be magician, Magic Meenu, who has no liking for sports is forced to play the game (his father wanted him to be a sportsman).
Meenu is lazy and wants quick rewards. For this reason, he’s always wanted to be a kulfiwala (kulfi ice cream seller), a dullah (bridegroom), and a jaadugar, in that order. But most importantly, like any entitled guy, he wants to marry his love interest. For that to happen, his football team Sikandars must win.
The problem is that the team is not that athletic or competitive. In fact, they don’t even have a full roster of players, or even a team color.
When the coach asks them to come in one red item of clothing in order to build their team spirit, one of them comes in a “Madras check” lungi because his wife used his boxers as pocha (mop).
To add an element of truth to the name Jaadugar, there is a real magician (Chhabra) performing on stage. But the “abracadabra” incantation with the basic “hat and rabbit” magic trick sounds hilarious in a Hindi accent.
In every frame of the film, there is the inimitable Meenu. Meenu may be lacking in life goals and gusto, but is brimming with cliched wisecrack dialogues. “Main hoon Meenu, Raaton ki neend chheenu…”
Kitsch and Tell
Cinematography is low key, costumes are not couture, lyrics and music by Nilotpal Bora are kitschy, but the makeshift local football (American soccer) commentators are really funny!
Their spirited comments and rustic aphorisms are unique: The players are hovering around the ball like girls around a golgappa wallah… these guys don’t give nimbu or mirchi for free, they are certainly not going to let you score a ball!
The motley team of unmotivated players don’t look like champions. It does not help their cause whether they are named Jungle Panthers or Kamyab Sikandars. The mish-mash players from Neemuch yell out jijaji more than they score goals. No wonder they are so far away from the coveted Dabholkar trophy.
Fulfilling A Dream
Javed Jaffrey, as Meenu’s chacha and also their self-appointed coach, is not of much help, with his quixotic pep talk, and a smattering of stammer.
I completed watching Jaadugar because the movie resurfaced my memory of Dr. Dabholkar, the esteemed professor of physiology at my medical school. He was a true jaadugar. Not only did he teach us medicine but also the discipline of being punctual and the value of time.
Does Meenu muster enough magic to fulfill his father’s dream? Does he understand the message the entire town of Neemuch is desperately trying to send? Or does he miss both because of sarcastic quips like “Greeting card kyun ban jate ho?”
To find out, I’ll let you watch the film. As for me, I was left in doldrums that will only be smoothed out by watching other “… gar” movies Baazigar, Sapno ka Saudagar and so on…
Jaadugar is streaming on Netflix.