In spite of some decent supporting performances, Jai Jai Maharashtra Maza falls flat because of a weak lead actress in Anusha Dandekar and its in-film advertising overkill. The possibly interesting story is squandered away in favour of shameless commercialization.
In a film, if there is anything that grates more than the fact that the lead actor can’t act to save his or her life, it is over-the-top, shameless in-film branding. Jai Jai Maharashtra Maza, directed by Gautam Joglekar, unfortunately has both these problems. So, despite a story that had reasonable potential, Jai Jai Maharashtra Maza is little more than a waste of one’s time. What you’ll walk away with after this film are Fair & Lovely, Amanora, Sanjay Ghodawat Group, Volkswagen, Shamrao Vitthal Bank and then some.
Ashwini Stevenson (played by Anusha Dandekar) is the world’s number one female tennis player. Adopted from an orphanage in Pune when she was still an infant, she was brought up by her American adoptive mother, Gail Stevenson. Meanwhile, Dilip & Amruta Rege are a happily married couple who are still romantic at heart even after 25 years of marriage. Their paths collide when it comes forth that Ashwini’s and Amruta’s pasts are intricately linked.
Mahesh Manjrekar and Mrunal Kulkarni, who play the Reges, are easily the best things about the film. Manjrekar’s character, in particular, will be universally appreciated because of the way it is written and the calm manner in which Manjrekar essays the part. Also lending a decent supporting hand are Siddharth Chandekar (who plays their son) and Hemant Dhome, who plays a charming bumpkin from Kolhapur.
But no amount of decent acting from the others can take away from the lack or excess of it on the part of Anusha Dandekar. On the surface, she seems perfect for the part of a Marathi girl brought up as an American. But her character seems like it was developed out of screenwriting sessions held purely by five-year olds. Add to that the fact that Anusha’s dialogue delivery is extremely weak, be it in English or Marathi. The result is that watching her on screen in this film is a cumbersome task, one that you just cannot wait to get over with. Embarrassing guest appearances by Aditi Govitrikar and Karishma Shah do nothing to help the film’s cause.
Attempting to shoot the film in vibrant colours, the makers of the film succeed in making the film look fresh. However, like so many films in the past, it is easy to tell which shots were shot with a DSLR. Also, there are often times when it looks like the cinematographer is trying too hard, particularly during some close up shots of faces.
The inconsistent writing is another serious flaw in the film. The romantic track between Anusha Dandekar and Hemant Dhome is highly implausible and is poorly developed. There is also a moralistic sidetrack about the ills of sensationalist journalism today, which seems almost incongruent with the manner in which brands are plugged throughout the film.
Which brings me back to that which will trouble the audience the most. How is one supposed to take a song tribute to Pune seriously, when the name and number of a cab agency is thrust in front of your face every few minutes? How do you identify with a character when you have the Fair & Lovely signature tune playing whenever she pauses to catch a breath? How is the audience supposed to get involved with the characters, when they pause to extoll the virtues of a group that is involved in construction, which also happens to be the producer of film?
Cinema is a powerful medium, one that was always going to fall prey to excessive commercial misuse. But Jai Jai Maharashtra Maza takes it to dizzying new levels of shamelessness. For that reason alone, the makers of the film need to learn a lesson in not taking the audience for granted. Jai Jai Maharashtra is watchable, but avoiding it will do no one any harm at all.
This review is by guest reviewer Pradeep Menon. Pradeep is a filmmaker and a dreamer. He loves books, rain, winters, tea and his parents. Cinema, however, is the only truth he believes in. He breathes and bleeds film, mostly in hues of saffron, white, green and blue. You can watch his short films at www.youtube.com/cyberpradeep.
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