Jubilee Movie Review: Motwane’s Tarantino Act Resurrects The Golden Age Of Hindi Cinema
‘Jubilee’ Movie Review: Motwane’s Tarantino Act Resurrects The Golden Age Of Hindi Cinema

Co-written by Soumik Sen and Motwane, with screenplay and dialogues by Atul Sabharwal, this period drama is most definitely one of the most interesting and well-made Indian web series to date

Director: Vikramaditya Motwane
Writer: Vikramaditya Motwane, Atul Sabharwal, Soumik Sen
Cast: Prosenjit Chatterjee, Aparshakti Khurana, Aditi Rao Hydari, Wamiqa Gabbi, Sidhant Gupta, and others
Rating: 4/5


Set against the backdrop of the golden age of Indian cinema, the series begins with Srikant Roy (Prosenjit Chatterjee), a film producer and thorough businessman, co-owns a movie studio, Roy Talkies, with his actress wife Sumitra Devi (Aditi Rao Hydari). Srikant Roy is on the verge of starting a new movie and he has already introduced its debutant hero, the tall and handsome, Jamshed Khan (Nandish Singh Sandhu). But before the shoot could commence, Sumitra Devi who is having a torrid affair with her onscreen hero, decides to elope with him. As Srikant Roy gets to know of this, he sends his trusted assistant Binod Das (Aparshakti Khurana) to get the duo back. More than salvaging his marriage, his immediate concern is to get his film rolling. Binod however is an ambitious man who dreams of becoming a hero himself. The series follows how the lab assistant slyly removes all the obstacles and paves the way to turn his improbable dream into a reality. He not only fits himself in the shoes of Jamshed Khan but becomes a star.



Jubilee is undoubtedly Vikramaditya Motwane at his finest. Set in the golden age of Hindi cinema, the exquisitely shot and impeccably designed fiction builds on the Himanshu Rai-Devika Rani-Najmul Hussain saga and the dramatic rise of a Bombay Talkies’s lab assistant to superstar status. Co-written by Soumik Sen and Motwane, with screenplay and dialogues by Atul Sabharwal, this period drama is most definitely one of the most interesting and well-made Indian web series to date.


Much like Quentin Tarantino’s revisionist history of the infamous Manson murders in Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood where he fictionalises the tragic end of Sharon Tate, this is a fictional tale that uses a real incident as its core material. Interestingly, while Tarantino’s is set in the golden age of Hollywood, Motwane’s also revisits the golden age of Hindi cinema. Although it starts with the Devika Rani- Najmul Hussain scandal, it totally reimagines the later arc of Najmul Hussain, who after being kicked out of Bombay Talkies—with whom he had signed for a string of films after starring in their Jawani Ki Hawa opposite Devika Rani—had joined New Theatres in Calcutta and was part of Prithviraj Kapoor’s Anath Ashram (1937) or to K.L. Saigal’s Dushman (1938) among others. However, he failed to resurrect his career. He died in Lahore in 1980. And hence, the arc of the protagonist is largely fictional that uses Ashok Kumar’s chance debut in cinema and his meteoric rise to superstardom from being a mere lab assistant at Bombay Talkies, as the basic framework. But kudos to the writers for resurrecting a scandal that rocked the Hindi film industry in the 1930s and creating such a dramatic fictional tale of ambition, fame, love, and betrayal.



The timelines of the real and reel don’t really overlap perfectly. The series unfolds on the backdrop of Indian independence and the Partition. Himanshu Rai had died much before India became a free country. It was before WW2 that German technicians such as Franz Osten, Karl von Spreti, and Josef Wirsching populated the studio floors of Bombay Talkies. However, in the series, they are shown helming various departments post-Independence. Although Himanshu Rai is credited for coming up with the idea of playback music, Dhoop Chhaon (1935) was the first Hindi film to use playback singing. It was helmed by Nitin Bose whose first film under the Bombay Talkies banner, Naukadubi came much later in 1947. There is also an interesting bit about how the film industry found an ingenious way to counter the 1952 govt ban on the broadcast of film music on All India Radio and the rise of Radio Ceylon’s popularity in India. This incident also happened much after the death of Rai.


However, these are liberties one can easily take while creating fiction out of a real incident. Motwane’s research is so detailed that even when he merges the timelines, he manages to build a cohesive fictional story that brings together some of the major interesting real incidents of the early years of Hindi cinema. In fact, the real star of the series is the writing that seamlessly merges facts with fiction and brings back to life the early days of the Hindi film industry and its half-forgotten stories. Beyond the glamour, glitz, scandals, and nostalgia, it is also a poignant socio-political commentary of the times. It brings to fore how the Indian Independence and the Partition impacted the Hindi film industry and the sudden influx of Punjabi filmmakers and actors in the Bengali-run studios, while subtly touching upon issues of religious bias in the industry that would force Muslim actors to take up Hindu names and the likes.



Kudos to Motwane for extracting such a sparkling performance from the entire cast and a special mention must be made of the casting director, Aman Devgan, for picking such a motley bunch of unconventional but stunning actors. While Prosenjit Chatterjee, the most successful and most prolific leading man of Bengali cinema who completes four decades in cinema this year, proves his acting credentials beyond his superstar status as Srikant Roy, Aparshakti Khurana as Binod Das gets an author-backed role and utilises the opportunity to establish himself as an actor to reckon with. Sidhant Gupta as Jay Khanna, a character most probably based on the young Raj Kapoor, another Bombay Talkies find who started off by doing odd jobs at the studio, gives a breakthrough performance. Wamiqa Gabbi as the young aspiring actress, Niloufer Qureshi, is splendid. Even Nandish Singh Sandhu, who doesn’t get as much screen time, impresses as the dashing Najam-ul-Hussain.


Although Aditi Rao Hydari looks stunning and looks the part, one hopes she has a better-written character to play with. Even though Motwane’s story builds more on Ashok Kumar’s rise to fame and his becoming the first superstar of Hindi movies, one is left with a tinge of disappointment by the fictionalised version of Devika Rani, the actor, producer, star, the co-owner of Bombay Talkies, and the firebrand first lady of Indian cinema. Ironically, Motwane builds a man’s world, something Devika Rani fought against her entire life, where women are interesting only in love stories or scandals.



Aarti Bajaj’s sharp and precise editing ensures that the series never becomes a self-indulgent mush and you get zero loo breaks. Production design by Mukund Gupta and Aparna Sud and art direction by Priti Gole and Yogesh Bansode are exquisite and recreate the past with stunning effect and it is enhanced further by Alokananda Dasgupta’s background score.


The eclectic music album that consists of 12 originals is equally stunning. Composed by Amit Trivedi and penned by Kausar Munir, it includes Sunidhi Chauhan’s foot-tapping song Babuji Bhole Bhale and the nostalgia-dipped Udankhatola sung by Mohammed Irfan and Vaishali Mahde.


The first 5 episodes of the period drama have dropped on Amazon Prime Video and the rest of the 5 are scheduled to drop next week.

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