Tag Archives: Sugandha Garg

Movie Review: Jugni (2016)

Jugni3 Stars (out of 4)

Buy the movie at Amazon or iTunes
Buy the soundtrack at Amazon or iTunes

Writer-director Shefali Bhushan makes a promising debut with Jugni. Despite some plot hiccups, Bhushan’s film shows her knack for characterization and her passion for music.

The plot issues are present from the beginning. As the opening credits run, a woman travels from Mumbai to Hasanpur, a small town in Punjab. It’s a full twelve minutes before we learn that the woman is named Vibs (short for Vibhavari), played by Sugandha Garg, who’s gaining recognizability with roles in Patang, My Name Is Khan, and the Tere Bin Laden films.

Vibs is a rookie music director looking for fresh talent for a movie soundtrack. Her target is a lauded classical singer named Bibi Saroop (Sadhana Singh), but Bibi’s son Mastana (Siddhant Behl) gets to Vibs first. Mastana is also a singer, though his tastes are more modern than his mother’s. For example, the lyrics of his biggest hit on the local party circuit rhyme “kidney” with “Sydney”.

The amount of time Vibs and Mastana spend together rankles Preeto (Anuritta Jha), Mastana’s de facto girlfriend. She and Bibi worry that Mastana is reading too much into Vibs’ interest in him, letting Bollywood dreams cloud his vision.

Mastana is used to being the big fish in his small pond, so he’s certain his local fame will translate to success in Mumbai. Even when their song is a hit, Vibs cautions Mastana about the fickleness of the industry. Promises made in Mumbai don’t mean as much as they do in Hasanpur.

This city-versus-country conflict is at the heart of Jugni, not just in the way it governs careers but relationships as well. Preeto and Mastana aren’t officially girlfriend-boyfriend because they don’t need to be; it’s just a given that they will get married someday. On the flip side, Vibs shares an apartment with her boyfriend, Sid (Samir Sharma), but recent problems have rendered their relationship essentially an open one.

A night of passion between Vibs and Mastana holds different meaning for both of them. While Vibs treats it as a fling, Mastana considers it the foundation for a romantic relationship. Much like his dreams of success in Bollywood, he also envisions a future with Vibs and pushes Preeto aside to make way.

Refreshingly, Bhushan doesn’t take the side of either character, presenting them as complex young adults at a critical stage in their lives. Mastana is naive, but is he wrong to view sex with Vibs as a significant, possibly life-changing event? Vibs is nonchalant, but why shouldn’t two adults be able to have fun without it requiring a commitment?

One side-effect of this balanced presentation is a blurring of who the film’s main character actually is. That then clouds the ultimate goals for each character, making it hard to get a sense of where we are in the story at any given point. Not every movie needs to rigidly follow a traditional structure, but Bhushan shows enough familiarity with that structure that certain deviations just make things confusing.

As for the performances, Behl — who also gets an associate writer credit for Jugni — imbues Mastana with a mixture of innocence and arrogance. Garg has a challenging job because Vibs spends a lot of time listening to other people play music, and it’s hard to make that look interesting onscreen. Garg is good at portraying Vibs’ internal conflict, making her vacillation understandable without coming across as manipulative.

Jugni is an aesthetic delight for both eyes and ears. The movie looks lovely, thanks to cinematographer Divakar Mani. Clinton Cerejo provides a terrific soundtrack, with contributions from luminaries like A. R. Rahman and Vishal Bhardwaj.

There’s an awful lot to like about Jugni. I’m really interested to watch Shefali Bhushan grow as a filmmaker.

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Movie Review: Patang (2011)

3.5 Stars (out of 4)

Buy or rent the movie at iTunes

A kite festival sounds like a serene setting for a film, but kite flying is a kind of contact sport in India. That knowledge adds depth to the festive backdrop of Patang (“The Kite”), a lovely film by debutant director Prashant Bhargava.

The action in Patang takes place over three days around Uttarayan, the annual kite festival in Ahmedabad. Jayesh (Mukkund Shukla) returns to his hometown after five years away to show the festival to his adult daughter, Priya (Sugandha Garg). Priya uses her video camera to record festival preparations, which include merchants strengthening kite string with a paste made from boiled rice before coating the string in ground glass. The glass-coated string allows competitors to slice the strings of opposing kites

Jayesh is financially well-off, so a lack of funds can’t explain the infrequency of his visits from his home in Delhi. The hostile reception he gets from his nephew, Chakku (Nawazuddin Siddiqui), offers a clue. Jayesh is received more warmly by his mother and his sister-in-law, Sudha (Seema Biswas), wife of his deceased older brother.

As Jayesh tries to recreate the kite-flying triumphs of his youth at a party for friends and family, it becomes apparent that he is a know-it-all. He scolds Priya for wearing a tank top and dancing in public, fearful that she’ll ruin his reputation. This drives her straight into the arms of a cute electronics store clerk, Bobby (Aakash Maheriya).

Jayesh has other plans aimed at improving the lives of his relatives, but he sets them in motion without asking for their consent. Sudha picks up on something about Jayesh: for a guy who seems to have all the answers, he doesn’t seem happy.

The story in Patang unfolds slowly and without a typical narrative structure. The film is presented in an almost documentary-style format, as though a camera crew dropped in for the three days of the festival and left immediately after. It’s enjoyably languid, but not slow.

The downside of shooting documentary-style is that it’s often impossible not to be aware of the camera. Shots are interrupted by passersby. The camera is sometimes set at an awkward distance from the actors. And the editing occasionally consists of rapid-fire cuts between closeups of the actors’ faces.

There were moments when I wanted to be able to ignore the technique and just watch what was happening. The best shots in the whole movie come from a stationary camera pointed at the sky, watching the kites as they soar.

The performances are universally sound, anchored by Seema Biswas as Sudha. After the death of her husband, Sudha becomes the head of the household, though she defers to her mother-in-law. Biswas portrays Sudha as a woman whose good-nature isn’t overwhelmed by her tremendous responsibilities or Jayesh’s attempts to control things from afar. She treats Priya with a warmth the girl doesn’t get from her father.

The most intriguing relationship is between Chakku and a street kid named Hamid (Hamid Shaikh). Chakku spends his days hanging with Hamid and several other boys of around ten, stealing from street vendors and shooting off fireworks. Perhaps Jayesh is right to suggest that it’s time for Chakku to grow up and get a real job.

Bhargava has a real knack for storytelling and atmosphere and gets great performances from his cast. I’m looking forward to his future films.

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