Jubilee review: Sidhant Gupta delivers star-making performance in Motwane's sad, slow burn about movies
Jubilee review: Vikramaditya Motwane's new series is long and sometimes a little exhausting. However, it is greatly helped by Sidhant Gupta's performance.
Overstretched and extra filmy, there is enough to complain about in Vikramaditya Motwane's Jubilee. The dialogues are thick and heavy, the music too bland and the twists too convenient. But despite all its flaws, Jubilee stays with you long after you have watched it. Perhaps the credit goes to some of the best performances you've ever seen in a Hindi series but I will not deny that snorting up 10 one-hour episodes over a single night might have a role to play as well. Good thing Prime Video is releasing the show divided into two sets of five episodes. First five arrive on April 7 and the rest on April 14.
There have been long series with longer episodes in the past as well but in Jubilee's case, its slow burn quality doesn't help its case. Perhaps closest in pace and visual style to Motwane's Lootera, it takes its sweet time to explore the story of a man's murder and another's guilt at the core of it. It meanders far and wide to the pastures of filmmaking in post-Independence India, star-making film studios, a refugee from Pakistan dreaming big, a sex worker finding new opportunities, and somehow, even Russians and Americans warring for clout in India. There is a lot going on in Jubilee at all times, however, only a few bits are able to justify the long run time.
Jubilee begins with Roy Talkies head honcho Srikant Roy (Prasenjit Chatterjee) finding the perfect man to launch as their next superstar, Madan Roy. He zeroes in on the handsome Jamshed Khan (Nandish Singh Sandhu) but discovers that he is having an affair with his wife Sumitra (Aditi Rao Hydari). He sends his loyal man Friday Binod Das (Aparshakti Khurana) to retrieve the lovebirds from Lucknow and bring them to Mumbai. Binod leaves to follow his bosses orders but he also has Bollywood dreams in his eyes and wants to be Madan Kumar himself. Meanwhile, a parallel hero is born in Jay Khanna (Sidhant Gupta), a refugee who arrives in Mumbai from Karachi. Charismatic and so cool, he, too, dreams of making movies someday.
Jubilee, in its essence, becomes the story of two men rising from nothing to become shining stars of the Hindi film industry. The first half, that releases on Friday, is all about their ascent to power and stardom and the next half is all about their struggle to keep it. Movies about movies often bring out the best in directors and writers as it is a world they know best. Even here, the best bits are ones which focus on the struggles of filmmaking, no matter how bad the movie being made actually looks to us now. The murder angle, the affairs, the scandals, the love stories are often the snooziest parts of Jubilee. And suddenly, by the final two episodes, the murder angle steamrolls over all the crises at play and by the end, everyone gets a little too swift, tragic endings to their stories. As the end credits roll, you begin to wonder how did they manage to run out of time even with 10 hours at their disposal. Maybe not repeating the Madan Kumar monologue every episode would have helped.
Aparshakti Khurana finally delivers a career-kickstarting performance as the brooding, guilt-ridden young star who cannot break the shackles of subservience to his master no matter how successful he gets. Despite taking on a role that is a far cry from what he has been upto so far, the performance here comes across as quite boring and one-tone after a while. After the singular first episode that showed him raging, he sticks to brooding and looking sickly sad for the rest of the series. It's not really on him as even the writing on Binod Das doesn't progress much after second episode. Similarly, Aditi Rao Hydari is also a big let down. Always snooping, never surprising, her segments on the show became increasingly skippable by the second episode itself. The maalkin of a film studio and a star in her own right, she should have been far more interesting to watch than this.
On the other end of the spectrum is Sidhant Gupta with his electric charm. He breaks into a dance step as things finally go his way, falls desperately in love with a woman who won't have him, fumes with rage as goons steal his hard work and beams with joy when people show him love. With his sugar-coated voice, stunning looks and charisma that is rarely seen in anyone's first few acting jobs, Sidhant shows great promise. He also, almost single-handedly lifts up the watchability of Jubilee. Wamiqa Gabbi as sex worker-turned-actress Niloufer is also a treat to watch as she finds ways to make a living at the expense of rich sleazebags, without a morsel of regret or guilt. It's a fresh, light and different take on the ‘bechari’ woman trope that we grew tired of years ago.
As is expected from Vikramaditya Motwane at all times, Jubilee does indeed look beautiful in ever frame. The great production value, lavish sets, time-appropriate costumes add to the effect with perhaps lighting playing the most important part. It is noticeable how Motwane and his DOP choose to keep some characters in dark during a scene, a part of the face hidden in shadows, offices are bathed in golden hour light, violent fires burn in the background and even pictures clicked by detectives look noir-chic. It is all truly stunning.
To sum it up, Jubilee can be a long, long watch about movies, rivalry, jealousy, scandal and hard earned success. However, some snoozy bits will struggle hard for your attention and the rare bad music from Amit Trivedi could add to the disappointment. But brilliant performances by Sidhant and Wamiqa are worth investing some time in.