Readers Write In #571:  Web Series Review – Jubilee – Of Mice and Men, Of Stars and Blackholes

Posted on April 22, 2023


By Neeraj S Iyer

‘Guilt, Pride, Alienation, Lonesomeness, Anger, Opportunities’ have often been the primary motifs that fuel the narrative of Vikramaditya Motwane’s thought-provoking films. Oftentimes, these themes have also seeped into the works where he has played the role of a Co-Writer & Producer. With his Prime Video Web Show ‘Jubilee’, this multi-faceted, genre-bending Director and India’s equivalent (?) to the legendary ‘Sidney Lumet’, blends most of his recurring topics and gives us a fascinating, immersive, and ambitious narrative of his 5 principal characters set against the backdrop of 1940s and 50s of Indian Cinema, while touching upon the country’s hard-fought Independence and the harrowing repercussions of Partition which followed soon after. When the rest of this now-free country was subjected to nightmares and undergoing myriad emotions, there was a parallel world that seemed to be almost unaffected by the initial struggles of the outside world.

This was the time when many talented artists were brimming with curiosity, and a desire to explore, learn and be a part of this breathtaking form of Art, which was making steady technical progress with each passing year. It could be the lure of fame, money or just finding a voice to their just artistic expressions, but this cinematic medium attracted one too many folks from around the country starting from the 1940s to dare I say, 2023? The Audiences and the Artists alike were looking for opportunities to escape Reality!

Now movie-pundits, cinephiles, and impatient viewers might say “Hey I saw this scene coming from a mile, man” or “C’mon, I know where this character’s trajectory is going to go” & “Of course, don’t think hard, I know how this drama will unfold” or “where are my Breaking Bad twisted scenes?” But I would like to digress, the fact being that Life itself is predictable and everyone has to go through repetitive cycles; in other words, the so-called routines, including ‘The Stars’, the viewers, and the famed ones too.

Maybe being an assistant on two of Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s well-known films, Motwane, along with his writer Soumik Sen, take some leaves from the latter’s formulaic but widely acclaimed grandiosity, and weave their own unique lavish period drama filled with surprising deceits and betrayals, which almost showcases the real beautiful “BOMBAY”, that it once was. The twists and surprises are there if you have little patience. So speaking of being predictable, they indicate that ‘there can be unpredictability in predictability’.

Now why should you watch these ten episodic period drama which often crosses the 50-minute mark? Here are the 10 Reasons WHY –

1.    Just don’t be Fooled folks; Keep watching!  Jubilee is a totally gripping Thriller in the garb of a Drama.

2.    The superstar of Bengal & the loss of Hindi Cinema, Prosenjit Chatterjee, gives a Masterclass on Acting. As the series progresses, he sets aside any little hints of being uncomfortable with returning to the Hindi space after a long gap and essays a story of a famed and style-driven man who was born to lead, rule, and revolutionize Cinema, at the cost of anything. His character Srikant Roy, the Producer, the big boss & the star-maker whose ego and pride stoops before none, creates a sense of wonderment and Prosenjit nails it perfectly. Look out for his touching monologue of sorts in the latter half on the importance and impact of Movies.

3.    The ‘Find of the Year’, (as Karan Johar would like to put it) Sidhant Gupta, effortlessly shifts between flamboyance, anger, brood, and a charming naturistic style, reminiscent of Dev Anand and the nonchalance of Raj Kumar, though his character eventually gets molded like the early cinematic journey of Raj Kapoor (until Sangam maybe). As a ‘care-a-damn’ Jay Khanna, he brings a lot of massy and whistle-worthy moments (on and off screen) to an otherwise understated and sometimes somber show. His scenes with the underrated Ram Kapoor (as the foul-mouthed but good-hearted ‘Walia’) are quite a hoot.

4.    Usually cast as a supporting actor in comic roles, Aparshakthi Khurana, playing the lead here, transforms himself, just like his character, and delivers a deliberately timid, crafty and gives an eerie deadpan performance that might transcend him to a bigger casting league, like his famous elder brother. He does seem to be a tad intimidated by the role and its demands in the first episode, but the actor’s brilliance here is that he never once goes ‘out of character’ and embodies the enigmatic image of the Superstar Madan Kumar deftly and always making us wonder “Guess what am I thinking Now”?

5.    Aditi Rao Hydari’s Sumitra Kumari, a Top and influential actress of her times beautifully displays pathos, desperation, and sheer vulnerability towards the later part of the series.

6.    Wamiqa Gabbi, primarily a Punjabi actress who has also acted in Malayalam and Tamil films, is another effortless actress whom we might be seeing more in Hindi Cinema. One often feels that she, along with her co-star Sidhant are mouthing their set of impromptu dialogues with utmost flair and confidence. Her starry-eyed and ambitious ‘Nilofur’s’ transcendence to popularity is quite entertaining, yet has an underlying melancholy.

7.    The Stunning Art Designs and the clever Cinematography makes you want to visit this City during that era.

8.    The soaring and highly evocative background score of Alokananda Dasgupta highlights some key scenes wonderfully well enough to further resonate with the plight and desire of the characters.

9.    The ever-so-talented Amit Trivedi, not a stranger to Retro music (Bombay Velvet) creates a bunch of soul-stirring & feel-happy songs, especially in Part 2 of the Series. These songs would have been a chartbuster in the popular radio show ‘Binaca Geetmala’, hosted by the great Ameen Sayani, starting from 1952.

10. Though Motwane skillfully brings a contemporary feel to this series, (through semi-modern costumes and relatable dialogues, used today), he mostly avoids any direct references or caricatured portrayals of yesteryear stars.

But in the end, he finally gives up and treats us with a beautiful ode to an iconic scene from a path-breaking Guru Dutt movie. Backed by a thoughtful tune that echoes the same despair and apt lyrics by Kausar Munir, the scene which ends this Saga depicts eventual disillusionment and the bitter price of hard-earned fame.

So what else? Well, as Aditi Rao Hydari’s Sumitra, half drunk, smirking, and world-weary, says to her trusted ally, “Jaam Rakhiye Aur Humhe Yaad Rakhiyega”.

Oh YES, this heady concoction should definitely be Remembered !