Jee Karda review: Tamannaah Bhatia and gang make for a part-relatable, part-passable watch
Jee Karda revolves around a group of friends navigating adulting in their early 30s. The eight-part series is streaming on Prime Video India.
Jee Karda, a new slice-of-life show directed by Arunima Sharma, begins on a solid note. It sees an old man make a prophecy about a bunch of schoolkids, telling each of them exactly what would turn out to be their life's Kryptonite, one that they should maintain a safe distance from. (Also read: The Flash review: Satisfying superhero saga with a beating heart)
While the children dismiss the rather far-fetched prophecy, the narrative cuts to 15 years later, where all of them are facing consequences from exactly the same trait/element/person they were asked to stay away from.
The first five minutes set the tone for the rest of the show. We already know the beginning and the end, and are excited to find out how each of them landed there.
It helps that co-writers Arunima, Abbas and Hussain Dalal aren't entirely obsessed with the two ends of the narrative. They seem more invested in the journey of the seven characters, from point A to B. So it's fathomable that not every arc ends up as literally true to the prophecy. Some have figurative implications and some have far-fetched interpretations.
No friends in a story about friendship?
But it's quite a bummer that for a story about friendship, and how it evolves from childhood to adulthood, there are barely a handful of instances when the entire gang shows up and hangs out together. No, we don't expect them to congregate at some Bandra/South Bombay Central Perk counterpart every day. But had there been more scenes that showed their interpersonal dynamics in a larger group, then it'd have made the battle lines sharper.
The fact that when we juxtapose most of their childhood scenes, in the annoyingly overdone sepia tint, featuring all of them together, conspiring or pulling each other's leg, against the lack of the same when they're adults, it shows suggestively how friends drift apart with time, more often than not.
We see the gang in permutations and combinations, that also allows us into what they truly feel about a third character who's not in the frame. But it's usually something we don't already know. The narrative structure, that showed great potential in the first five minutes of the show, could've been designed in a way that it kept us guessing even more throughout, and made the stakes at the end all the higher.
Cast and soundtrack to the rescue
Having said that, when the writing and direction take long breathers, two other elements jump to the forefront in order to keep us engaged. Firstly, the cast, put together by the always-dependable Casting Bay. Tamannaah Bhatia has been proving lately how she has much more to offer than just play a glamorous leading lady in South star vehicles. She carries on the ease she channeled in Shashanka Ghosh's rom-com Plan A Plan B, and layers it with an inner turmoil that represents the self-inflicted issues that plague those on the other side of 30. She effortlessly blends into the ensemble, even though the narrative insists on making the story about her character.
Aashim Gulati also brings his edgy personality and unadulterated energy from Taj: The Reign of Revenge, and bathes it in modern, trendy colours of a hip-hop artiste. It's only towards the second half of the show that he starts to exhibit a different side to his character's personality — one that's foretold by a scene where he listens to 'Chhaap Tilak' in solitude but swiftly turns to his own rap song that he starts vibing to, as soon as a friend enters.
Suhail Nayyar is smartly cast as the geeky man-child that he was in last year's Sharmaji Namkeen. Anya Singh, who made a terrific debut in the 2017 dud Qaidi Band, shows yet again that she has enough spark to pull off a leading part. She gets the shorter end of the stick here, but is the only one who can convincingly pass off lines like “tujhe feel bad hua?” Hussain Dalal, who has co-written the show, interestingly gives himself a tricky role: of the 'invisible friend,' one who's an anomaly in this pack and ends up as shaking things up in the end. Also, I'd pay good money to watch Simone Singh lead her own show now. She's the coolest MILF on TV, after Four More Shots Please! and now, Jee Karda.
The second element that breathes life into the show is Sachin-Jigar's music. They painstakingly create and curate a playlist that's easy on the ears, irresistibly hummable, suitably quirky, deceptively profound and a great value addition narratively. If these songs were set against a tighter, more evolved show, they would've surely enjoyed a life of their own.
Debutante director Arunima Sharma has been an associate director on the sets of Homi Adajania's movies (he pops up to co-direct a couple of episodes here). She doesn't bring the signature quirk that her mentor is renowned for, but she does make a valid case for how adulting hits everyone in their 30s, especially the women. That demographic is bound to relate, but one wishes there was far more to chew on than yet another reminder of the everyday drudgery that we're already steeped in.