'Jaadugar' Review: Failing to cast a spell
At 166 minutes, Jaadugar makes for a painfully long, lumbering, loud, directionless, and dull show
It has been raining small towns for a while now on streaming platforms. After Phulera in Panchayat and Bhopal in Gullak, it’s time now for the viewers to travel to Neemuch in Madhya Pradesh with Sameer Saxena’s 'Jaadugar' on Netflix. Writer Biswapati Sarkar picks up the football obsession of the town and tries to spin a yarn around it, one which mixes the passion for the game with the love for the art and craft of magic. Unfortunately, neither is football able to cast a spell, nor does magic manage to score a goal.
At 166 minutes, 'Jaadugar' makes for a painfully long, lumbering, loud, directionless, and dull show. About Meenu (Jitendra Kumar, seeming tiresomely similar in every outing now), whose heart belongs to the practice of magic but who is saddled with the legacy of soccer from his late father, an ace goal scorer, and an uncle (over sincere Jaaved Jaaferi) who has his own ghosts from the past waiting to be slayed, the film keeps beating round the bush, spins on inanities than offering anything fresh, arresting or engaging.
It’s not as though it had no possibilities. There is the forever interesting theme of an individual’s inner calling clashing with the expectations and dreams that others have of him. There’s also an interesting portrayal of Meenu’s love for a girl which is centred on his self-obsession. But the film doesn’t explore it much. Eventually it becomes the same old tale of the triumph of the underdog with some interesting ethical, moral and practical twists which again, like everything else in the film, remain half-baked than fully realized.
The biggest problem is the gaze of the film. It doesn’t emerge from within the world it portrays on screen but positions itself as an outsider. As a result, almost all characters, save a couple of lead ones, are reduced to kitschy, irritating caricatures. Far from empathy for the rag tag team and its commitment to the game, the group gets presented as a curio and oddity. The film robs the mofussil of any depth. The hinterland is pieced together not from its own inner reality but to appeal to an urbanite’s perception of it.
Jaadugar is unable to present an effective slice of life, doesn’t offer anything entertaining and can’t appeal to collective nostalgia for a certain way of life either. It is uninspired, bland and in an unsuccessful search for a distinct identity of its own.