If you are a fan of director Luv Ranjan’s brand of visceral misogyny in Pyaar Ka Punchnama 1 and 2 and Sonu Ke Titu Ki Sweety, and that is what you are hoping to get in Jai Mummy Di, then you will be disappointed. This new film, despite being co-produced by Ranjan, displays a surprising lack of animosity towards women.
If you saw the trailer of Jai Mummy Di, were intrigued by the hint of a long-buried lesbian romance and were hoping to see a film on this still taboo subject, then too you will be disappointed.
If the pace and sense of humour you spotted in the trailer left you expecting a couple of hours of light-hearted fun, again, disappointment awaits you.
That is the thing about director Navjot Gulati’s Jai Mummy Di. It is not regressive, not progressive, not anything.
Jai Mummy Di is the story of Pinky Bhalla (Poonam Dhillon) and Laali Khanna (Supriya Pathak Kapoor) who have been sworn enemies for decades. They are neighbours in a north Delhi locality and their mutual antagonism is so strong, that their children — Saanjh Bhalla (Sonnalli Seygall) and Puneet Khanna (Sunny Singh) — dare not reveal to the families that they have been in love since school. When the youngsters realise they cannot live without each other, they set out to find the root cause of the mothers’ hatred which, they are told, dates back to their college days. Back then, their common friend reveals, the two were so thick that they were even rumoured to be girlfriends.
The first half of Jai Mummy Di is certainly mildly funny, but the comedy and the film as a whole fizzle out as it gradually becomes clear that Gulati does not know where to take it. This was also the problem with that earlier film he wrote, 2017’s Running Shaadi starring Taapsee Pannu and Amit Sadh — there was the seed of a good idea there, but it got lost on a road to nowhere.
Once Jai Mummy Di starts going round and round in circles, it becomes limp and purposeless. Dialogues are left hanging, extra seconds hang loose and it begins to feel like an amateur stage production where the actors don’t understand poor timing.
Veterans Pathak Kapoor and Dhillon get to shout and grimace a lot, but for a film that is supposedly centred around their characters, Jai Mummy Di has precious little about them and gives them hardly any screen time in the second half. Sunny Singh and Sonnalli Seygall, both of whom are recognisable from Ranjan’s most famous films, look dapper and deliver competent even if not sparkling performances. Singh needs to work on his dialogue delivery though. In several places in the film I found myself straining my ears to figure out what he had just said because of his tendency to swallow words or shoot them out too fast.
Possibly because the Pyaar Ka Punchnamas gained notoriety for their misogyny, this screenplay tries to compensate with occasional moments of overt feminism. Saanjh demands to know why a woman must follow her husband wherever he goes after marriage, and Puneet does not disagree. When they hear of the possibility that their mothers were once romantically involved with each other, they respond with a complete lack of judgement. But these instances of pointed liberalism add up to nothing when actor Alok Nath surfaces intermittently in the narrative as a hanger on, and it appears that although the man has no particular role to play in this film, he has been placed there as an act of defiance against those who asked why he was cast in Ranjan’s last production De De Pyaar De despite the allegations of rape and harassment that were made against him during the Me Too movement in 2018, allegations he responded to with the most bizarre, apathetic non-denial.
His presence is a distracting irritant. What really kills this film though is the supposed big reveal in the end about Laali and Pinky’s intense enmity. It is so poorly conceived and so so ordinary, that you have to wonder why this plain film was ever made. Seriously, why?