Starring: Prasenjit Chatterjee, Aditi Rao Hydari, Wamiqa Gabbi, Aparshakti Khurana, Sidhant Gupta, Nandish Singh Sandhu, Ram Kapoor, Arun Govil
Director: Vikramaditya Motwane
Imagine re-living the era of black and white filmmaking, devoid of the modern-day trappings of heightened visual and sound effects. It is just such nostalgia that this new 10-part Prime Video series evokes with the help of a host of talented artists – newcomers and veterans alike.
Srikant Roy (Chatterjee) is a respected thespian who has made a mark in the nascent Hindi film industry with his hugely successful Bombay Talkies production house. Against the backdrop of the Partition of India in August 1947, Roy’s empire seems to be resonating with similar winds of historic change. He has settled upon the new star who he is convinced can boost the fortunes of his film empire with the kind of emotional box-office hits that strike silver jubilees with their impressive run at the theatres. It is the audition reel of Jamshed Khan (Sandhu) that he has settled upon, after trawling through thousands, to take on the mantle of Bombay Talkies’ newest discovery – Madan Kumar.
But there is a hiccup in this plan – his wife, business partner and popular leading lady Sumitra Kumari (Rao Hydari) is smitten with Khan and is planning to elope with the true love of her life. Himself a philanderer, Roy is less troubled by the illicit affair and more by the prospect of losing his Jubilee delivering stars. He sends his trusted aide and Man Friday, Binod Das (Khurana), on a mission to bring back his chosen Madan Kumar safely. However, Das has his own celluloid dreams and when fate hands him a chance, he chooses a deal with the devil to fulfil this ambition. The result is the meteoric rise of Das as the new Madan Kumar, but at a bloody cost.
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In parallel, the fortunes of another wannabe filmmaker displaced as a refugee from Pakistan to India Jay Khanna (Gupta) unfold and intertwine with Madan Kumar’s career. Will Binod Das overcome the guilt of his mistake or will Sumitra Kumari expose the true identity hidden behind Madan Kumar? And, will Jay Khanna achieve his own Bollywood dreams in a newly independent India finding its feet after years of colonial rule?
These intersecting themes run throughout the entire series, making it an extremely gripping watch. The fact that each sepia-toned episode transports you to a different world – complete with the rain-soaked scenes of the Raj Kapoor and Nargis era – is most certainly the biggest draw of ‘Jubilee’.
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While the lengthy disclaimer at the start of each episode is keen to stress that this is entirely a work of fiction, resonance with real life screen icons of 1950s Bollywood is inevitable. However, those parallels only add to the charm and appeal of this drama. Developments such as the influence of the Cold War era on an expanding Indian cinema industry and playback singing becoming the norm are covered with impressive finesse.
The newcomers such as the tall and lanky Sidhant Gupta go toe to toe with veterans like Chatterjee, Ram Kapoor and Arun Govil. Aditi Rao Hydari as the quintessential celluloid beauty and talent akin to a real-life Madhubala or Devika Rani is an ideal fit for her role as a studio boss.
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The result is a series that breezes through some of the most iconic moments of Indian cinematic history and an emotional ride through the yesteryears of Bollywood. It is most certainly a must watch for any Hindi film lover but has enough going for the uninitiated too.