When was the last time you wrote a handwritten note to somebody in today’s age of WhatsApp? Welcome to late 80s Agra where the walls were plastered with posters of Govinda and Neelam’s hit film Love 86 and N Chandra’s Pratighaat. No Facebook and Twitter meant the boy waited endlessly outside the girls’ house to connect with her again. An era without mobile phones where young hearts with all their innocence intact felt more close to each other. Stolen glances reluctantly thrown in each others direction was the romantic thing to do.
Director Raj Purohit along with tremendous support from cinematographer Sriram Ganapathy transports you to a different era in which they recreate their version of Romeo and Juliet. Shyaam Lal Gupta aka Shyamu (Harshvardhan Deo), son of Agra’s well-known halwai, falls hook, line and sinker for the only daughter Radha (Cherry Mardia) of a khaandani family who has come from Mathura to visit her maternal grandmother in Agra. While he has remained thrice in the same class, she is well-educated and can converse effortlessly in English. Love knows no man-made boundaries. After a brief courtship in the land of Tajmahal, petha and monkeys, Radha responds to Shyaamu’s overtures.
That their families will not find this match sweet as Agra ka petha is a given. The two lovers eventually elope to Mumbai. They are brought back and how their innocent love story ends in a tragedy forms the rest of this plot. What helps Jigariyaa the most is that its lead protagonists manage to convince you of their love being unadulterated. Their pairing has freshness and the simplicity of small town India. The film has certain likeable energy and moves at a fast pace till the pre-interval. It has some lilting musical numbers by Agnel-Faizan which helps this romantic journey tremendously. Arziyaan is a number which grows on you and the Holi song too is memorable. Cinematographer Sriram Ganapathy has the shot the film beautifully and rendered to it a certain, sweet, picture postcard quality. It will probably make you want to visit Agra soon.
What mars the film is its duration. At 141 minutes the first half is too long. Even after parental opposition to Shyaamu and Radha’s friendship is established, it still takes time for it to arrive at the interval point. Post interval, the situation that the two actors grapple with in Mumbai is funny, humorous and some of it even touching. Having said that there is nothing new this love story offers. Its treatment is something that you have seen in various small town love stories before. The lead actor Harshvardhan Deo has tremendous screen presence, likeable personality and a winsome smile. He lights up the screen with the antics that he employs to impress his love. The same cannot be said about Cherry Mardia, who appears a bit stiff. It looks like the boy is more in love with her than she is with him.
It helps tremendously that the film’s supporting characters are senior actors who know their job. Virendra Saxena as Shaamu’s father is ace. The scene where he admonishes his son on the terrace, against the background of Tajmahal is a fine example of saying more in less words. He gets the body language of his character so right when he is at work in the sweetmeat shop or even when Radha’s grandmother calls him home and insults him because his son dared to love her granddaughter. KK Raina too packs a punch as a helpless father of an eloped girl. Natasha Rastogi reprises a role similar to her role in Ishaqzaade where she played Arjun Kapoor’s mother. She does it here again with much more restraint.