Cast: Kalki Koechlin, Richa Chadda, Arslan Goni, Sudhanshu Pandey
Director: Howard Rosemeyer
Any promise that Jia aur Jia may have held of taking a fresh, original approach to the idea of a ‘girl-bonding’ story is dispelled literally minutes into the film. Make no mistake, this is your standard odd-couple narrative disguised as a road-trip movie, and it’s crammed with every cliché you can possibly think of.
Kalki Koechlin is free-spirited Jia Grewal, and Richa Chadda is uptight Jia Venkatram. Owing to a lazy script contrivance, the two women – perfect strangers – are paired up for the duration of a Swedish holiday, and predictably the bickering starts from the moment they first meet.
Sadly, director Howard Rosemeyer and writer Mudassar Aziz have no interest beyond stating the obvious. The beats are familiar, and the shading mostly superficial. We’re in 2017, but the idea of women letting their hair down and having a good time is still limited to things like smoking a joint, getting drunk, flirting openly with men, and referring to each other affectionately as “saali daayen”. It’s not hard to see what the problem is. This is a girl-bonding story as imagined by men. What’s missing is an honest female perspective that might have brought nuance and some depth.
Like in most films of this genre, the road-trip in Jia aur Jia is a metaphor for a journey of self-discovery. Prejudices are overcome, dark secrets are revealed, and life lessons are learnt, but there isn’t an iota of freshness in the way that the narrative unfolds. Some bits are promising, like a scene in which the two women and a male friend they make on the trip watch a foreign film without subtitles at a drive-in cinema. Unable to follow what’s going on, they make up their own dialogues and plot as they go.
But charming moments are in short supply here. Kalki and Richa, both talented actors, are wasted in a film that frankly doesn’t know what to do with them. Kalki is in Energizer Bunny mode, and Richa appears uncharacteristically stiff.
At a mere 92 minutes Jia Aur Jia still feels overlong and also unmistakably boring. A holiday in Sweden has never felt like such a slog.
I’m going with one-and-a-half out of five.
Rating: 1.5 / 5