Shefali Bhushan’s Jugni has an infectious charm mainly due to two things. One is Clinton Cerejo’s music, his first full album. The man who has added minute but memorable contributions to the best of A.R Rahman compositions over the years comes up with an eclectic soundtrack for what is essentially a musical celebrating love for music and how it touches the lives of its characters. The other is Siddhanth Behl’s performance as Mastana, a small time musician in Hassanpur given to playing to the galleries in his performances betraying his classical roots. He is a bagful of energy bursting with the pizzazz of a rockstar even when he is not on stage. Watch the scene where he gets him and Vibhawari (Sugandha Garg) seated in a no-standing-room bus journey. Or the one where he is giving his number to her in Raag Puriya Dhanashree with a little factoid as an addendum. These two combine to hold our attention in a film that works in parts even with obvious flaws.
Jugni is a firefly but it is also a folk art, Punjabi music used as a narrative device. Both the meanings are exploited by Bhushan as Vibhawari – a music director – comes in search of Bibi Saroop (Sadhana Singh) for her music but ends up finding Mastana, Saroop’s son. The spark between Vibhawari and Mastana, apparent from the beginning, reaches its crescendo with Hatt Mullah and Bhushan doesn’t opt for half-measures in filming an exquisite track. There is fire, there is the agrarian dampness of Haryana, there is Clinton’s music and there is gulabo. Some of the best portions of Jugni are in the slow burn of the Mastana-Preeto-Vibhawari love triangle. Vibhawari tells Mastana tumhari aur meri duniya bahut alag hain. It’s true of their relationship, their class divide and also the music. Vibhawari comes from Mumbai looking for the classical, finds Mastana who in Hassanpur has shunned the classical for the better received music with lyrics that go Dil ke sang ghurde kidney le. Chal Vancouver ya Sydney le.
There is also Sid, Vibhawari’s partner back in Bombay but his character is never developed enough for you to feel anything. That’s probably one reason why the film falls flat into auto-pilot mode when the story moves to Mumbai. The director with a penchant for going over budget, the executive producer, the established music director too drunk to lend an ear to Mastana. Everyone becomes a caricature. The Mumbai leg doesn’t add anything to the film that the characters haven’t realized already. In the end, Jugni turns out to be a well done short film padded up to be a feature. But it is still one of those unique efforts in this age of heroes because all the characters are delightfully flawed. Everyone from Vibhawari to Preeto to Mastana to Sid wears their hearts on their sleeves. Just like music.
(An edited version of this was published in The New Indian Express)