Friday 26 December 2008

Judaai (1997)

Judaai, a moral fable about the evils of greed, is both too exaggerated and too simplistic to make much of an impact. It also has far too many obnoxious touches - from an unsympathetic and almost odious anti-heroine to a brain-dead comedy sideplot to a grating character motto ("Hello!") - so that we spent much of it fast-forwarding or groaning or both.

Check out who's on the TV screen: CHARLES BARKLEY OMG!!! 1990s FLASHBACK!!!

Raj (Anil Kapoor) and Kaajal (Sridevi) are a (somewhat) happily married couple with two charming kids. The main source of tension is Kaajal's desire to be rich - a desire which seems to spring eternal. Although Raj is an honest and hardworking middle-class engineer, Kaajal has got class on the brain, and she insists that the family adopt more "fancy" manners such as:
  • Eating bread, butter and jam rather than roti parcels.
  • Using fake plastic instead of plain, honest sindoor.
  • Taking taxis rather than the bus.
  • Having the children call her "Mummy" rather than the more "middle-class"-sounding "Ma".

Raj, a meek and patient husband, does what he can, but Kaajal is just never satisfied - and, in some interesting gender role reversals, she even beats on him! (Hey, this is actually the second film where we found ourselves urging Anil Kapoor to respect himself and not go back to his abusive relationship!)

Enter Janhvi (Urmila Matondkar), who has everything Kaajal wants (loads and loads of cash), and who wants everything Kaajal has (loads and loads of Anil Kapoor's bouncy, mustachey, husbandly goodness). The ladies - in another interesting gender role reversal - arrange a trade, with Kaajal essentially pimping out her husband in exchange for all that glorious moolah. Janhvi happily adopts the middle-class Good Indian Wife role and tends to the tiffins and pooja sets while Kaajal lives it up and takes to sleeping with rupee notes (yes, really). Raj, upset at being a pawn and essentially occupying the typically powerless "heroine" role, eventually finds himself falling for his "second" wife Janhvi despite himself. So do the kids. And it's only when the hearts start squeezing in the wrong direction that Kaajal realizes what anyone with any sort of moral brain already knew: GREED IS BAD... ESPECIALLY WHEN YOU START PIMPING YOUR FAMILY.

Ahh, the trappings of wealth haven't changed much: iPod, toy dog, check.

The only funny thing about the comedy sideplot was Kader Khan's portrait. Okay, and Johnny Lever does a decent Sanjeev Kumar impression.

We haven't mentioned the horrible comedy subplot, mostly because - after two scenes - we realized just how horrible it was, and so spent the rest of the film fastforwarding. Basically, the comedy subplot has three jokes:
    1. Johnny Lever marries a brainless tart who can only say one phrase, "Abba Dhabba Jabba."
    2. Her father, who has a question mark drawn on his forehead, is a chatterbox who asks a thousand questions.
    3. They know a guy who says, "MMMM!?!!" in a strange way at the end of every sentence.

Funny, right? Well, no. We didn't think so.

There were a couple interesting things about this film, despite the ridiculous and uninteresting moral fable that it was. First, on the gender relations. According to a thoughtful comment by user akbarnali on IMDb's Laadla page, Judaai and Laadla were both notable for presenting the somewhat revolutionary concept of the anti-heroine to Hindi commercial cinema. We haven't seen Laadla yet, but Judaai's Kajal was certainly despicable: greedy, money-hungering and ruthless. As we said earlier, she was even abusive! The gender roles were interestingly reversed, in that the film was driven by Kaajal's (well, bad) choices. And even more interesting was the climax when, rather than the (male) hero and (male) villain deciding what happens to the heroine (as was typical back in the day), Raj's fate is debated by anti-heroine Kaajal and anti-villain Janhvi.

The most striking song. We wish we had a color-coded gaggle of back-up dancers to follow us around the park!

Which segues into the second interesting thing about Judaai: the anti-villain. We say that because Janhvi has all the trappings of a typical Hindi movie villain and/or vamp - dressing in provocative Westernized clothing, threateningly liberated and aggressively pursuing her man - and yet it is she who comes out as the strongest and, well, goodest. Raj, as we said, is pretty meek and ineffectual. Kaajal blunders along as she learns that a loving husband outweighs playing cards at the Rotary Club in terms of emotional fulfillment. But Janhvi, despite her "purchase", seemed to be the most sympathetic, easy-going and modest of the bunch. Even though we couldn't stand her motto - "He-llo!" - we had to admire her go-get-'em attitude and gutsy responsibility-taking. Go, girl!

A wooby moment for Anil, since it's one of the few times when one of the scary women is being nice to him.

The filmmaking was fine, with some cheeky commentary on wealth-fetish (always associated with the West) in the funny Las Vegas number (and check out all the bewildered Americans stopping to watch them film!). The performances were all decent. Sridevi, who we sometimes like and sometimes barely tolerate was in her barely tolerable mode. That said, her role was pretty awful. Urmila Matondkar was quite likable as the oddly empowered Janhvi - indeed, she came out on top. Our beloved Anil Kapoor had precious little to do - much like a typical heroine! - though we did note that he shares with our beloved Giancarlo Giannini that ability to sympathetically play the man who is tossed around by strong women. We think certain macho actors would shrink from a role which "unmanned" them, but Anil has taken a few such "submissive", unempowered roles - Beta being the most notable, Pukar the most recent - and we always appreciate it. Thanks, man. Break free of the box!


Rum said...

lol i remember watching this when i was 7, naturally i thought i had to like it as my ANIL was there, but Sridevi was a horrid woman to Anil, and i really did hope that he would end up with Urmila! now watching this at 18, i realize how i loved/hated the 90's with coordinated backup dancers, and johnny lever as comic interruption!

Anonymous said...

ROTFL!!! I wonder how you sat through this pap..."Abba jabba dabba" indeed...

Filmi Girl said...

So... is this worth watching or not? Hmm?

I usually hate comedy subplots, but I just saw a 1990s film which featured a guy who looks amazingly like Dev Anand as the comedy subplot and, well, it was HILARIOUS!

a ppcc representative said...

Rum - Love/hate indeed! Alas, this was swinging more towards "hate" for me... Though the Anil addiction continues strong!

Srinivas - I do a lot for the PPCC.

Filmi Girl - Well, you're going to be receiving my copy in the next few days! With the cunning use of the FFWD button, I think this is worth a single viewing.

NidaMarie said...

Aww, man, just when I was getting into the plot, you mention the sideshow with Johnny Lever...eek!:)

Thank you for sitting through this and finding things to discuss about it for our sakes, though!

I know you said you have a love/hate relationship with this one, but seeing as you've labeled it "trash"--lol--I think I'll sit this one out. For now.

Anonymous said...

Have you seen the one where Anil is a labor leader forced to marry the evil heiress Sridevi who does evil things like try to slip rohypnol into his drink? Never fear, he knows what she's up to and roofies her instead! And then she all but kills his mother by saying mean things to her and then Anil yells at her and so she hands over her fortune to Anil and the union and lives life as a proper woman should. The End.

a ppcc representative said...

Nida - Ha, while this wasn't as painful as Atithee (a film I forced myself to finish ONLY for the PPCC), this was hard going at times. I think I was just disappointed by the notable lack of Anil and Sridevi playing such a loathsome character.

Amrita - Ah haaa, that would be Laadla! I've got that one sans subs... now I HAVE to see it.

SpyGirl said...

"(loads and loads of Anil Kapoor's bouncy, mustachey, husbandly goodness)"

I loved this line! It made me laugh.

Zed said...

A top performance by Sridevi and Urmila. Loved their onscreen cat fights.