Movies like Jia Aur Jia make me sad. They make me sad because I am one of those D-bag film goers who never fail to whine and moan about women not being represented well in film. I write my reviews and complain that the other gender is mostly one-note and used as eye candy in films that preach feminism but choose to not practice their preachings. And yes, sooner or later, bolstered by the changing times and the power of collective whinging, we do get female-led films.
Vidya Balan all but cornered the market on all the half-decent roles written for women in their late 20s to late 30s, but there is a distinct lack of thought put into exploring younger women. Women in their teens or early 20s are rarely given the in-depth look they sorely deserve as they're usually pigeonholed into roles showcasing aspiring rock star / party girl who smokes and drinks while showing the finger to society or downtrodden delicate flower who has been trampled upon one too many times by society's many vices. While women who match these tropes do exist, they are but tropes and not three-dimensional characters. And what you need in an over 90-minute film with no plot to speak of is characters to relate to. This double-homogenised version of Eat, Pray, Love (which was toothless to begin with) is anything but relatable.
On the one hand we have Sita... um, Jia (Richa Chadda) who is an introvert. The yang to her yin is Geeta... damn it, Jia (Kalki Koechlin), a smoking, free-spirited, flash-mob-creating female your conservative parents tell you to avoid at all costs. Simply put, one Jia eats mutton biryani and the other eats majjiga annam (curd rice). Stick to these character descriptions, though, because you'd be hard-pressed to write more than a half sentence about two women who inhabit almost every frame as glossy as for Swedish tourism.
Having not heard of Airbnb or Skyscanner or the many wonders modern technology has to offer, Jia and Jia embark on something called a "twin-sharing" trip to explore Scandinavia. On a sidebar, someone write this "twin-sharing" idea down and pitch it on Shark Tank. Coming back to the non-millionaires, they aimlessly wander around Sweden attending random rock shows which one Jia resents and the other relishes. Jia Koechlin relishes it so much that she will be smitten down by liver cancer within a week. See what happens when you partake in alcohol consumption you crazy kids, you end up in horrible stories.
So with one Jia dying on the outside, the other dying on the inside and your interest in the film dying with each passing second, the movie continues its exercise in tedium, somewhat convinced that it has something important to say about the human condition. The film's themes are so overbearing that the fact that the two Jias are two symbolic parts of every person where the happy part dies with liver cancer "supposedly" whereas the sadness is what is left behind was not going to be lost on your 6-year-old nephew.
To paraphrase one of my favourite writers, this movie complains about the fact that it has nothing to complain about, hoping against hope that someone will consider its barebones story which has such little material, to be edgy.
Excellent actresses Kalki Koechlin and Richa Chadda are reduced to caricatures. Newcomer Arslan Goni who is in love with one of the Jias (you know which one) is extremely green as an actor. The lesser said about the music the better. Sweden still looks good, though.
Cycling back to line 1, Jia Aur Jia makes me you because we as a community know how hard it is to get finance for, produce, write and direct a female-led movie. Keyboard warriors can vent their frustrations in all-caps, but they don't have the money to finance a film when push comes to shove. So when an all-female film where the focus is not on salaciously clad babes but on character drama is green lit, the characters and their drama need to be intriguing - for every mediocre lady-centric movie with an occupancy of seven people in a hall, 10 more are shot down citing the former's middling numbers.
But then again, as a community, we need to ask ourselves - why is it that female-led movies suffer such a fate? Many hero-centric action, comedy, drama and horror movies tank every year but their funding rarely ceases. Maybe female-centric cinema is still a niche market, and so quality becomes key to recoup investments. And maybe the amount of thought I've put into the acceptance of this brand of cinema in this 900-word review is more than the filmmakers put into a 120-page script.