A Bihari girl moves to Punjab and gets mixed up in the state’s nefarious drug trade. At first, Good Luck Jerry struck me as a retread of Udta Punjab (2016). With two major differences. One, Siddharth Sengupta’s film is a remake (of Kolamaavu Kokila, from 2018). Two, there’s nothing truly ‘nefarious’ or intimidating about these drug dealers. One guy, for instance, has a brace around his neck.
Another looks like a doped-out cousin of Lovinder Singh Lucky. A third, despite facial similarities to a hardline Maharashtra politician, is quite the chicken at heart. A fourth talks in fish metaphors. Then there’s Jerry (Janhvi Kapoor). As mousy as her name, she’s the least conceivable as a drug runner—and thus the perfect fit for the job.
When the film starts, Jerry is down on her luck, working as a masseuse and helping her mother (Mita Vashisht) and younger sister (Samta Sudiksha) sell momos out of their rundown home. “Only veg momos,” her mother declares proudly, parcelling them out in batches for assorted local northeastern to sell. The mix of migrant identities leads to a nice bit, where a racist joke elicits a prompt racist jibe. When her mother comes down with cancer, Jerry tries desperately to gather the treatment money.
She’s eventually hired by Timmi (Jaswant Singh Dalal), a local gangster, who sees potential in the lone shy girl ferrying heroin packets in her tiffin box. As Jerry starts breaking sad, the film kicks into high gear. There are some funny sequences (a rooftop interrogation nicely oscillates between danger and farce). But there are also a lot of empty quirks: gaudy set decorations, a song called ‘Paracetamol’, Deepak Dobriyal in funky golden boots and a jacket with peacocks on them. Deepak—one of our best, most effortlessly comedic actors— struggles to perk up this film.
The second half runs out of steam. Janhvi Kapoor is adequately cast as Jerry, requiring (and indeed offering) little more than a nervous capering spunk. All the same, the decision to make her character Bihari should have been avoided. When she says, “Zada mirchi daal diye ka?”, you can hear the Bihari spill out over each syllable. You don’t need to be from the Darbhanga region to see the gaps. Just listen to Mita Vashisht’s raw, natural imitation of the Maithili tongue.
Throughout the film, Jerry is hectored, harassed and talked down to by the men in the story. Her household, too, is frequently beset by unsolicited male interference. The mounting discomfort makes you wait for a payoff. Yet, in the film’s climax, Jerry is all but forgotten as cops and criminals convene for a chaotic stand-off. She does wise up and take control of her story, but not in a way that’s thrilling or revelatory or makes a lasting point. It would have still worked if the other characters weren’t so darned cartoonish. “There is only one difference between selling momos and selling drugs,” Jerry says at one point, “The difference of fear.” But I couldn’t tell so from watching Good Luck Jerry.
GOOD LUCK JERRY
Cast: Janhvi Kapoor, Mita
Vashisht, Deepak Dobriyal, Sushant Singh, Saurabh Sachdeva
Director: Siddharth Sengupta
Streaming on: Disney plus Hotstar