In 1988, Aamir Khan and Juhi Chawla starred in Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak, a modern-day take on Romeo and Juliet. As the story goes, writer-producer Nasir Hussain was apprehensive about the film’s tragic end. He wanted his son, debutant director Mansoor Khan, to change it. Mansoor refused, and though an alternate ending was shot, he went with the image of the lovers collapsed by a cliff. Navjot Gulati’s Jai Mummy Di, arriving 32 years too late, makes a strong case for Mansoor’s decision. The insufferable rom-com spends most of its time trying to consummate its central romance.
It focuses on Puneet (Sunny Singh), who wants to marry his girlfriend Saanjh (Sonnalli Seygall). Their mothers, played by veterans Supriya Pathak and Poonam Dhillon, are at war, for a matter that’s only resolved in the end. This is painful, for the film barely makes us care about the characters or their conflict. It also doesn’t help that Dariyaganj, the film’s only romantic track, is a plaudit to the Delhi Police. I’m no fatalist, but perhaps some love stories are doomed from the start.
We open with a food fight. At a wedding, the Khanna and Bhalla families come to blows, resulting in a glorious slo-mo shot of chicken tandoories shooting up in the air (like I said, this film is a non-starter). It is soon revealed that Puneet and Saanjh have been childhood lovers, but have never had the gall to speak up. Both families, including the dads, are henpecked — the film lacks the measured laying out of old Rekha comedies like Khubsoorat or Biwi Ho To Aisi. Also, for something titled Jai Mummy Di, it cares less and less about the moms. We see them cross path from time to time, sniffing and scoffing and making fun of each other’s dress, but the story stays with the couple, as they try to unearth the mystery behind the feud. The treatment is wannabe Dibakar Banerjee: Delhi references, awkward kissing, more references. Navjot also nods to the films of Anurag Kashyap and Imtiaz Ali.
And yet, his debut effort is neither funny as a social comedy nor engaging as a romance. There are silly mistakes: an emotional high-point arrives right after the interval, making it impossible to sink back into the mood. In an effort to dial down the sexism (it’s produced by Luv Ranjan), the film is offensive to just about everybody: gays, lesbians, virgins, ‘converted Christians’, NRIs, and, bizarrely, Katrina Kaif.
A superbly poised Supriya Pathak doesn’t overdo the wily matriarch bit. She says ‘mangoes’ exactly like she did in Wake Up Sid (2009). Poonam Dhillon remains gracious in a boisterous role, and I wish the script had more fun with these militant mums. However, this is a film where Romeo and Juliet come out safe, not drinking poison or plunging swords into each other. They even ride out in shiny new Lamborghinis, twerking Neha Kakkar in tow. Shakespeare and sports cars — Hindi cinema in 2020.
Film: Jai Mummy Di
Director: Navjot Gulati
Cast: Sunny Singh, Sonnalli Seygall, Supriya Pathak, Poonam Dhillon