Titled “Jaadugar” (translation: Magician) in Hindi, the film about a magician and his soccer-loving family is the latest from Netflix India. Penned by Biswapati Sarkar, the film is a reunion between Sarkar and the film’s star Jitendra Kumar who first met on a project in 2012. Is there magic in this partnership?
LOVE GOALS: STREAM IT OR SKIP IT?
The Yeast: Meenu (Jitendra Kumar) is an amateur magician who is unlucky in love due to his inability to listen, and whose father was once a famed soccer player. His father’s greatest dream was to win the trophy for the local soccer tournament — a goal that his father’s brother has taken on by forming a ragtag team. The last piece of the puzzle is Meenu, who reluctantly joins. Elsewhere, Meenu falls in love with a local doctor and must win over her father in order to marry her.
What Will It Remind You Of?: The film is clearly aiming for comedic versions of seminal Bollywood sports films like Lagaan and dangal (it even mentions the latter by name), but falls short of reaching the heights of those films. And whenever you’re talking about the intersection of magic and soccer, you have to reference Stephen Chow’s seminal 2001 film, Shaolin Soccer.
Performance Worth Watching: Lalli is primarily comic relief (he has a great aside about Suniel Shetty’s career) but is also an endearing presence for Meenu. He also has some truly insane but fun hair.
Memorable Dialogue: A throughline of the film is Meenu’s inability to listen to his partner — instead, he falls in love with the idea of them. The refrain, “Just falling for someone isn’t love. Loving someone is love,” occurs a few times during the movie and is a filmy piece of dialogue that actually works.
Sex and Skin: none.
Our Take: It’s hard to pinpoint what exactly this film’s story is, and that’s its biggest downfall. It’s meandering for much of its almost three hour run and oscillates between romance, sports drama, coming of age film and slapstick comedy. That’s usually the essence of a “masala” Hindi film, but unfortunately this one is missing a compass pointing the film north.
Early in the film I found myself wondering how it would find a way to tie the sports story to the magic story to the love story. Spoiler alert: it didn’t — at least not successfully. By the end of the film, I’m not sure if this was a movie about a magician overcoming his hatred of his family’s favorite sport, or if it was about a man who has to choose between soccer and magic, or if it was about following your heart to love, or if it was about the power of teamwork. Perhaps it was about all of the above, which makes for a messy film.
Jitendra Kumar is perfectly fine in the starring role of Meenu, even if his character is downright impossible to root for. He’s obsessed with love but is self-centered in every relationship — his inability to listen to what the women in his life say is presented as endearing when it’s really infuriating. He’s not really good at magic OR soccer, and his grand gestures are more cringeworthy than anything.
There are a few catchy song numbers (yes, the film does buy into the typical Bollywood song-and-dance), but I’d advise you not to sit through the whole film to get to them.
Our Call: SKIP IT. The three-hour film doesn’t know what it’s about and feels directionless for most of its runtime.
Radhika Menon (@menonrad) is a TV-obsessed writer based in Los Angeles. Her work has appeared on Paste Magazine, Teen Vogue, Vulture and more. At any given moment, she can ruminate at length over Friday Night Lights, the University of Michigan, and the perfect slice of pizza. You may call her Rad.