Jaadugar (2022)

‘Jaadugar’ (2022) is a sweet rom-com sprinkled with football and magic

Credit this film for its high quality and unusual story. Despite a lengthy 2 hours and 47 minutes, I did not check my watch while viewing Jaadugar (जादूगर). The story is well-shot and well-edited, and it deftly weaves together a tale of romantic comedy, football, and magic. In addition, I was entranced by the brilliant smile of its star, Jitendra Kumar, who plays Meenu, an extremely goal-oriented young man whose dreams are tied to the soccer pitch, but not in a way you expect.

The Story

Jaadugar - Posham Pa Pictures instagram graphic
Jaadugar – Posham Pa Pictures instagram graphic

In the story, Meenu is a young man who wants nothing to do with football. While his father and uncle loved the game, Meenu’s parents died on the way to a match, leaving him an orphan as a child. Uncle Pradeep (Jaaved Jaaferi) dedicates himself to winning a local tournament in his brother’s honor, but the team he coaches fails to advance for over 20 years. Meenu sometimes humors and sometimes jeopardizes the aspiration of his only relative, as his real desire is to be a magician (a jaadugar).

A magician tells Meenu that love is what makes one’s magic excel. Meenu is already prone to infatuation, but this advice makes him focus on love as a means to an end. At a performance, he is smitten with the sight of a new young female doctor in town, Disha (Arushi Sharma). He pursues her almost to the point of stalking, trying to charm her with magic tricks, but just as she seems willing to relate to him, Meenu meets her father. Because Meenu has never really listened to Disha, he hadn’t realized that her father was the magician he admired.

To win Disha’s hand, Meenu must help his uncle’s team reach the tournament final. If he achieves that magical miracle, he will have to achieve a second task, which will get him what he wants, but at the expense of his uncle and teammates. That devil’s bargain helps Meenu finally understand the give and take of love within family and friends.

It’s a long movie, so I shortened the synopsis a great deal there. There are side themes such as: a recruited ringer who is homeless and not from the neighborhood, a female (not Disha) playing center mid, Disha marrying against her family’s wishes, and a musician who can’t consider himself a songwriter until he hears others singing his compositions. I found these stories engaging and not distracting, probably because Writer Biswapati Sarkar weaves the individual stories into a satisfying ending.

The Soccer

Although the cast participated in daily football practices, you aren’t going to watch this film for the game sequences. The soccer tournament is at a recreational level, showing that neighborhood pride and love of the game are important at the lowest stages of play. The soccer action is mostly straightforward, with the comedy coming from the two game commentators, one of whom is Director Sameer Saxena. There are some running jokes, such as the goalkeeper has a paralyzed left arm, but the gimmick also serves as his path from zero to hero when he makes crucial saves.

So many tough reviews

In researching this film, I came across many reviews, the majority of which were quite negative. Indian reviewers complained about the length of the film, that it wasn’t funny enough, the magic tricks weren’t good enough, and that it was not sufficiently politically correct.

This perplexed me, because although the film was long, I thought it was extremely well-done. It wove all the character stories together into an atypical underdog ending that was both creative and delivered good life lessons. As you can tell from my website, I have reviewed so many poor Indian soccer movies, that I felt Netflix’s backing had helped Jaadugar contribute a big step forward in Indian cinema quality. But obviously, I am on the other side of the world and am not in sync with reviewers in India.

On the upside, every review gave the music high marks. There are at least 2 football-specific songs, which I found pretty cool.

8 Soccer Movie Mom Rating = 8