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Jubilee – for Bollywood buffs who know their poison

This 10-episode web series weaves a tale of the film industry’s glamour that doesn't shy away from exposing dark side

By Shafiq Ul Hasan Siddiqui |
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PUBLISHED April 24, 2023

The impact of movies on people’s lives is often underestimated, but for many, it is an undeniable truth. Beyond the glamorous facade of the film industry, lies a dark world of desires, emotions, and ill-will towards friends, love interests, and even family members. While some believe that achieving success in the film industry only requires luck and a loyal fan base, there are other crucial elements too such as plotting, conspiracies, and the circles you move in, that are necessary to not only survive, but to get somewhere worthwhile in the industry. Jubilee, a new 10-episode web-series that has been making waves recently, delves into these intriguing and essential elements. Written by Atul Sabharwal and directed by Vikramaditya Motwane, it is currently streaming on Amazon Prime and is the talk of the town. Let’s take a closer look at what all the hoopla is about and what Jubilee has to offer its audience.

It is undeniable that throughout its running time, Jubilee is captivating, setting a benchmark for web-series in multiple aspects. The show blends subtlety with flair, as it creates a mesmerising and spell-binding viewing experience that is hard to resist.

The backdrop of the series is Partition and the newly-independent India. The Hindi cinema's golden age has dawned, and films have already captured the hearts of urban Indians. As the story of modern India takes shape, the political elite, led by Jawaharlal Nehru, envisions a socialist and democratic India built on a foundation of scientific temper. However, the business class, rife with corruption and greed, is eager to make its mark in the film industry.

Meanwhile, a new community of people is struggling to survive, having lost everything in the riots following Partition. These refugees from Pakistan come from a variety of backgrounds, including former business families and those who refuse to resort to crime. In the ill-managed camps, interactions and rivalries are sparked by factors such as caste, language, and community affiliation, with groups such as Punjabis and Sindhis taking centre stage.

In the mix of refugees are the Khanna family, a group of artists and storytellers who lost their theatre company in Karachi. Another artist named Niloufer travels from Lucknow to Bombay to escape her past and pursue her dreams. She also happens to be a sex worker, juggling both professions, while trying to make a name for herself in the film industry.

Meanwhile, the character of Binod Das exemplifies personal ambition and an unyielding drive that often blurs the lines of morality. At the other end of the spectrum is Sumitra Kumari, a superstar and savvy businesswoman married to the ruthless filmmaker, Srikant Roy. Together, they own Roy Talkies, and their story is one of ambition, power, desire, pride, deceit, and a deep love for cinema.

These distinct characters come together to weave a tale of the film industry’s glamour and grit, showcasing the complex and multifaceted nature of the world of cinema.

Jubilee offers a thrilling and poetic narrative that revolves around a diverse group of characters and their willingness to take risks in pursuit of their dreams, passions, ambitions, and love. The show captivates viewers with its compelling storyline that showcases the struggles and triumphs of individuals who are willing to bet it all to achieve their goals. The poetic element of the series adds a layer of depth to the characters’ journeys, making it a must-watch for those who appreciate powerful and thought-provoking storytelling. Characters are beautifully and insightfully written with multiple shades of grey that create a spontaneous connection with them all in one way or the other.

As the curtains draw back, we are introduced to Srikant Roy and his wife Sumitra Kumari, who are partners in both business and life. The year is 1947, and India is on the brink of gaining independence. With the announcement of the Mountbatten Plan, the subcontinent is on edge, and violence soon erupts in Punjab and Bengal.

Amidst the chaos, Srikant and Sumitra release their latest film, using the premiere to launch their next big star, a talented actor named Jamshed Khan from Lucknow. However, Srikant insists on renaming him Madan Kumar, knowing that ‘Khan heroes’ don’t sell as well. But despite his studio’s success, his marriage with Sumitra is on rocky ground.

To secure Jamshed’s contract, Srikant sends his trusted lab assistant, Binod Das, to Lucknow. However, Jamshed is reluctant to leave theatre for cinema, especially when offered a role by Jay Khanna, a Karachi theatre owner’s son. Srikant, desperate to sign Jamshed, resorts to underhand methods to force his hand.

Meanwhile, the Partition riots continue to spread across India, and reach Lucknow. Binod takes matters into his own hands, as does Sumitra. And as Jamshed prepares to leave for Karachi with Jay, he stops by a Lucknow brothel to watch a mujra performance by courtesan Niloufer Qureshi, completing the quintet of characters around which Jubilee revolves.

At first glance, Aparshakti Khurrana may not appear to be the ideal fit for a role that demands a disruptive, unconventional matinee idol. However, he manages to convey the character’s inherent contradictions with a commendable performance. Despite initial reservations, Aparshakti rises to the challenge and successfully portrays the complex duality of the character, making it a noteworthy performance. There are many scenes where he excels with subtlety and cold-bloodedness with utmost ease. This is definitely amongst Khurrana’s most noteworthy performances till date. He is a budding talent to look out for, enough of sidekick characters for him, for Khurrana can easily carry the show on his strong shoulders provided he is given with a decent script, like Jubilee’s.

Prosenjit Chatterjee is a known name for art lovers and he has astonished his audience with many characters over the years. In Jubilee, Chatterjee embodies a sense of grace and composure as a movie mogul struggling with inner conflicts, yet ultimately unwavering in his resolve. He makes sure that he becomes lethal where necessary and also makes his flamboyance, style and class ooze from his mannerism. Aditi Rao Hydari, as usual, radiates with a captivating aura, illuminating even the most muted frames with her magnetic presence. She is a talented actor, and she once again proves her mettle as she naturally transforms into Sumitra Devi’s character where she showcases different shades ranging from style icon to a love-struck celebrity.

Wamiqa Gabbi delivers an outstanding performance, skillfully portraying a range of emotions from flirtatious to level-headed to world-weary with remarkable effortlessness. She always had the potential make it big with the correct role and is a star in making. Ram Kapoor once again steals the show with his fascinating performance as Walia. The foul-mouthed businessman who does not let go or miss a single moment to eye profit. He keeps audiences hooked and they enjoy his character every time he appears on screen.

After Bhoomi (2017) and Inside Edge (2021), Sidhant Gupta grabs another meatier character in Jubilee as Jay Khanna, one of the integral characters of the series. Gupta is perfect for this character and astounds in his portrayal of a bold and captivating outsider who fearlessly infiltrates a tightly-knit and exclusive film community, leaving a lasting impression with his charm and charisma.

The direction and screenplay of Jubilee are top-notch. The series deserves a round of applause and everyone who has a knack for the golden era of Bollywood will dive deep in to the world created by Vikramaditya Motvane’s deft handling of character development, set design, colour grading, and screenplay has resulted in an outstanding web series that delves into the early years of the Indian film industry. With clever nods to iconic actors such as Dev Anand, Dilip Kumar, Raj Kapoor, and Guru Dutt, the show is sure to keep audiences captivated and engaged.

One of the most dazzling aspects of Jubilee is undoubtedly its soundtrack, featuring Amit Trivedi’s musical compositions and Kausar Munir’s lyrical poetry. The songs are tailor-made to complement the show’s unique tone and style, encompassing a range of moods from cheerful and upbeat to tender and sentimental. Drawing inspiration from some of the greatest musical maestros of the past such as Sachin Dev Burman, O.P. Nayyar, Shankar-Jaikishan, and even Hridaynath Mangeshkar, the soundtrack is a strikingly innovative fusion of diverse sounds and styles.

Jubilee resonates with viewers by portraying diverse segments of modern-day India in a seemingly progressive manner, against the backdrop of national and international politics. The show cleverly satisfies viewers’ curiosity about cinema and its history, while simultaneously drawing parallels with the present. It delves into the beauty of filmmaking, while not shying away from exposing the dark side of the industry that mirrors the flaws of Indian society. The story of Jay Khanna and Niloufer, whose shared passion for filmmaking transcends societal barriers, creates a compelling and unconventional love story that captivates audiences who appreciate artistic storytelling.

As the world of entertainment continues to churn out endless amounts of gory, obscene, and repetitive content, Jubilee stands out as a refreshing and unique treat. This visual masterpiece is a breath of fresh air with its captivating script, innovative screenplay, and exceptional performances. The music is also a standout feature, adding an extra layer of depth and emotion to an already incredible piece of art.

For those who are true Bollywood buffs and appreciate the history and evolution of the Indian Cinema, Jubilee is an absolute must-see. It breaks the mold of traditional detective thrillers and street-crime dramas, providing a one-of-a-kind experience that will leave audiences captivated from start to finish. So if you’re tired of the same old content and looking for something truly exceptional, Jubilee is the perfect choice.

Shafiq Ul Hasan Siddiqui is an avid movie buff, and film and drama critic and a digital inbound marketer. He tweets as www.twitter.com/shafiqulhasan81. All information and facts are the responsibility of the writer