A Film On Condoms Gets Our Rubber Stamp Of Approval
Nushrratt Bharuccha stars in the movie that highlights how Indian men don’t like using condoms, and Indian women suffer because of their quick-to-wilt ‘mardangi’
Janhit Mein Jaari
Cast: Nushrratt Bharuccha, Paritosh Tripathi, Vijay Raaz, Sapna Sand, Sukriti Gupta, Anud Singh Dhaka, Ishtiyak Khan
Direction: Jai Basantu Singh
Playing in theatres
If you examine it in the context of the larger, Bollywoodian scheme of things, Janhit Mein Jaari is a small, bhenji type of film that tries to punch above its weight by tabling a taboo subject. Apart from that, it seems neither special nor spectacular. It’s just decent.
However, judging it by its own ambition – what it is and what it sets out to achieve – Janhit Mein Jaari is quite fabulous.
True to its title, the film devotes itself to lok kalyan and keeps dangling boxes of flavoured ‘cn-dome’ in our face from the beginning to the end. Though we get darshan of its lubricated contents just once, and don’t see them being rolled out for carnal activities, Janhit Mein Jaari is a lot of fun and quite cool in the way it mainstreams condoms and puts them in the hands and purses of women. In fact, the film goes where others would have gotten queasy and says what has never been said before: Indian men don’t like using condoms, and Indian women suffer because of their quick-to-wilt mardangi.
I liked Janhit Mein Jaari because it is honest, funny, full of crackling one-liners and the fastest, sharpest repartee that gives the film cadence and momentum.
I also liked it because it’s that rare outing to a Tier 2 city that doesn’t star Ayushmaan Khurana, Rajkumar Rao or some version of a gun-toting Guddu bhaiyya.
In Chanderi, Madhya Pradesh, Manokamna Tripathi urf Mannu (Nushrratt Bharuccha), spunky and a bit of a con, lives with her middle-class family. Her mummyji, Manju (played brilliantly by Sapna Sand), is forever worrying about marrying off the eldest of her three daughters, but Mannu is determined to pursue a career before “settling down.”
She shares her mann ki baat only with Devi Prasad (Paritosh Tripathi), a shopkeeper and her bestie whose heart aches for Mannu.
After several failed attempts, beer-guzzling, double-MA Mannu finally lands a job as the chief marketing agent of a condom-manufacturing firm where sales are down and old stock is piling up. The job pays well, but, haaw-hai, condoms!
Obviously, the plot requires that this fact remain a secret till condom boxes, in all flavors and textures, appear and there’s much rona-dhona, “hai-hai, hamari izzat barbaad” moments in the Tripathi household.
But Mannu prevails and as the film makes its way from a red-light district to Ranjan (Anud Singh Dhaka), the leading light of a boys-only natak mandali, it normalizes sex workers and their madams as residents near our colonies while kindling some happy-happy romantic feelings.
Mannu likes oblivious-to-her-feelings-Ranjan and pursues him even as Devi wails and contemplates criminal activities. Soon Janhit Mein Jaari and Mannu make their way to Ranjan’s house where a strict, moralistic Keval Prajapati (Vijay Raaz) awaits her.
Post-interval, Janhit Mein Jaari is a sasur versus bahu affair where wimpy Ranjan nurses her with a hot water bottle when she has period pains, but keeps flitting between pitaji and patni like a shuttle cock as they trade questions and ultimatums.
I liked this part of the film because of how the writers — Raaj Shaandilyaa (a script writer for Comedy Circus and Kapil Sharma) and Yusuf Ali Khan — make Mannu negotiate it. The film doesn’t take any filmy flights, nor does it try to turn this tussle into a big, coming-of-age moment. It remains true to its small-town moorings without compromising on its feminist credentials. Mannu isn’t a petulant woman who is happy to challenge and show down her sasurji. Nor is she shown as a victim who is victorious in the end. Mannu will do what she thinks is right, but she doesn’t want to disrupt or disrespect. She is just a woman who takes state transport buses and is trying to live her life the way she wants to.
Several films take up “social issues,” and Janhit Mein Jaari’s focus is on abortions and the scant use of condoms because the facts are depressing. About 42,700 abortions are performed in India every day and about 10 women die every single day.
But this is not stuff we want to see or hear after paying Rs 200-plus and buying a very expensive bucket of popcorn.
Janhit Mein Jaari is aware of this and tries its best to tell a story while using its creative chops to break some cinematic taboos.
The film doesn’t cast condoms as the pleasure-giving contents of tiny boxes waiting for men and women to do some liptoing. It says pleasure is beside the point. Condoms are necessary because they save women’s lives.
The issue of abortions has been tackled before. And one of the best movies I have seen on abortions is Mike Leigh’s 2014 Vera Drake. It stars Imelda Staunton (who plays Dolores Umbridge in the Harry Potter series) in a stunning, once-in-a-lifetime performance.
Though Janhit Mein Jaari is bustling with fabulous characters, comic moments and lines, its plot is a bit thin and the story meanders towards the end before it grabs a mic and gets onto a stage to speechify.
Even as I raised both my eyebrows and cringed at this moment, I liked the film’s honesty. Instead of pretending to preach to characters in the film, it addresses us, directly.
Another reason why this brief moment at the end doesn’t upstage the film is that Janhit Mein Jaari makes us laugh a lot. The film has several comic set pieces, including one involving a dead chachaji and another one involving Sukriti Gupta, who plays Mannu’s bhabhi. This one foregrounds the sexual desires and frustrations of women wearing mangalsutra, sindoor, nylon saree and a safety pin holding it all together.
I don’t know what sort of family you may have grown up in. But I grew up in north India, in a family where, as we say, “on my mother’s side” everyone spoke only in taunts, insults and jokes. Each one revealing a past grouse and launching a new one.
The family gatherings in Janhit Mein Jaari are like a bitch fest-cum-hasya sammelan with very entertaining and funny dialogue. My favorite one begins thus: “Shaadi-shuda ladke chaddi ki tarah hote hai…”
Watch Janhit Mein Jaari to figure out how and why married Indian men are like panties, but also for Nushrratt Bharuccha who is the star of the show.
I have always liked tikhimirchi Bharuccha. She has that rare personality trait which few Indian women exude: Defiance and a very strong sense of self-worth. That’s what makes her very sexy and that’s what makes directors cast her repeatedly in roles where she takes on wankers, uncles and others.
The film loves her, is a bit protective of her and she reciprocates that love with a 100-watt performance that holds the film together. But she is also very ably supported by an ensemble of very talented actors, especially Paritosh Tripathi, Vijay Raaz, Sapna Sand and Sukriti Gupta.
Paritosh Tripathi’s Devi Prasad, in fact, plays a very important role in making Bharuccha’s endearing. If it were just left to the dead-on-arrival Anud Singh Dhaka, I doubt that Mannu ki manokamna would have been realised in this film.