Music is a great leveller, and can bring different people together. That thought is at the heart ‘Jugni’, a film that twines a tale of romance around the traditional Punjabi folk-song style (of the same name), used rousingly through the narrative in a way that has your head nodding to the beat.
Shefali Bhushan’s debut feature has a documentary feel to it, which is natural, given her experience with being a collator and collector of folk sounds around the country. But it works for the realistic grain of the film. I absolutely loved the music: such a pleasure to find a match between the milieu and the music, composed-scored-and-sung by such disparate but uber-talented acts like A R Rahman, Vishal Bhardwaj, and Clinton Cerejo.
Fittingly, music finds its way into the plot in an organic way : want-to-be music director Vibhavari aka Vibs (Sugandha Garg) comes looking for a fresh sound to rural Punjab, and lucks into Bibi Saroop (Sadhana Singh) and Mastana (Sidhant Behl), a duo that sing together in village gatherings. Mastana also has a solo act, which involves the sort of performance which goes down well with local audiences : hamming, swaying, jousting, but at the end of it, singing, always singing.
Vibs’ arrival changes the rhythms of everyone she comes in contact with: Mastana, who lights up the make-shift stages he prances upon, his tuneful mother, who is the repository of old lyrics and expert renditions, his fiery lady love (Anurita Jha) who knows him better than anyone else. Vibs’ own relationship with boyfriend-back-in-Mumbai (Sameer Sharma) is also in a flux, and we see her moorings become fragile.
‘Jugni’ works best when the characters are singing: Sidhant Behl pours his soul into his singing, making us believe, completely, in his Mastana : a bluff yet sensitive human in search of a life beyond the ‘ganne ke khet’ used for trysting with his lover. He is terrific. Garg is good too. As are the other characters. The film turns clunky in other places, the first-time inexperience showing, but we don’t really mind, because it has that rare thing : a soul, and of course, song. I came out humming.
Star cast of Jugni: Sugandha Garg, Sidhant Behl, Sadhana Singh, Anurita Jha, Sameer Sharma, Chandan Gill
Director: Shefali Bhushan
Two and a half stars.