“Jubilee”, Prime Video’s new period drama takes us back to the blooming ‘golden age’ of Indian cinema that came into existence along with the birth of a nation. The 10-part series with its first half now streaming is set in the Independence and period of Indian history. It follows the large empire of ‘Roy Talkies’ which is ruled by Shrikant Roy (Prasenjit Chatterjee) and his wife/film star Sumitra Kumari (Aditi Rao Hydari) who are both in search for their “Madan Humar”.
The empire, as we soon learn, is definitely not a peaceful one. The husband-wife duo is a complete product mixture of ‘oil and water’. The turbulences in their marriage seep into the business, finding ways to tear each other down. Right with its first few opening minutes, the screenplay sets the character dynamics just right, giving the audience a subtle understanding of how things had been the same since a while. On the other hand, the set-design brings the 40s and 50s era of India to their visual fruition – something that elevates the show into being one of the most technically accomplished shows in a while. The detailed production design perfectly blends the use of VFX for specific shots, while grounding most decor around practical sets and lighting. Thus, the art department too comes across as seamless as possible. Same goes for the costume and make-up design; each detail translates into an attribute that describes the character they belong to.
The opening credits of the show, in old school monochrome, lure in you into the warm and amber era of 40s India. It also sets the tone for the biggest and most popular film studio at the time, while setting the scale for the story. The ensemble cast of the show remains one of its strongholds, the standout of which remains Jay Khanna- a scion of a big studio in Karachi who now wanders around the refugee camps of India. Sidhant Gupta plays the part with aplomb command, and what a glorious project he gets his breakthrough in.
Most of the plot in “Jubilee” revolves around heroes and stars coming together to compound the myth of superstar through a medium of storytelling that continues to aspire millions throughout the country. Of the new comers is Binod Das aka Madan Kumar, played by a meta Aparshakti Khurana who ends up getting the part out of sheer luck; not only does he appear at the right place at the right time, but his rise to the top also helps reinforce a lot of the show’s ulterior motifs. His is a character that has two names, two identities, thus, living in two different worlds in conflict. Shamsher Sigh Walia who is pure and a typical Bollywood financer that we see even today is played by Ram Kapoor. Wamiqa Gabbi plays Niloufer Quereshi, a dancer and singer finding her way to the top and getting a break after the partition, ready to use any means possible. She has her own “adah” and poised that captivates you. Shweta Basu Prasad on the other hand, plays Binod’s wife. Hers is a character that not only helps the audience maintain a reference point to what Binod’s journey has looked like all along, but also forms the backbone of her husband’s life.
The one character to really look out for, however, is that of Jay Khanna, who is forced to leave Pakistan after his father’s theatre company is burnt after being in constant conflict and fight with himself and the world. He has a vision and a goal to make a film with story he believes in and make a name for himself as a director. Sidhant Gupta plays the part stunningly as an aspiring eye-catcher through a contagious energy.
The rich insight into the politics of how the film industry morphed into existence is what makes the show appealing. Although some of it could’ve been handled in a more coherent way with less contrived subplots, the cold- brutal, “survival of the fittest” attitude and grudgeful reality that continues to persist even today is what grounds the show further. Vikramaditya Motwane is truly one of the finest storytellers of the country, and with “Jubilee”, he’s created a world with huge flaws and people with malign intentions, even while the facade of it often seems too colored in bloom. Once you submit yourself to the era recreated in the show, you know you’re in the hands of creators at their a-game – ones who feel deep respect toward the artform itself and are very sure of the vision.
The pacing too is almost perfect with each episode, and the first couple deliberately pan out slowly with the necessary mood building. Though this may turn to be a little too dragged for some audience, as the story goes on, the climatic build-up and flares of characters begin to entrap you. The cinematography and the overall set designs too compliment to the storytelling craft greatly.
Another big takeaway from “Jubilee” easily remains its music, composed by Amit Trivedi. It gives a complete feel of the zeitgeist and the culture that influenced the music. If you are an Amit Trivedi fan, you are especially in for a treat.
“Jubilee” makes for a good watch and its take on Indian cinema informs how our own country’s initial stages of embracing the artform as a means for the masses looked like. Irrespective of one’s taste, one has to experience the show for what it is going at. For the amount of flare and complex colorful twists in the palette as well as the story, it provides an experience anyone who admires the artform should cherish onto.