Film Review: Jodi Breakers

A listless Bollywood sex comedy that starts out as merely dull before taking an inexcusable turn towards mawkish.

Though it doesn’t seem like an obviously funny subject, a number of great screen comedies have found lots of humor in divorce, including His Girl Friday, An Unmarried Woman and War of the Roses, to name a few. But don’t plan on adding the terminally bland Bollywood production Jodi Breakers to that list. That’s a shame, in a way, as the whole concept of a jaunty comedy about divorce is something relatively new for the Indian film industry, which has only started tackling the topic in earnest within the past few years and, even then, typically via more intensely dramatic fare. A decade ago, it would have been highly unlikely to see a Bollywood film open with a lavish, upbeat musical number in which the hero—in this case R. Madhavan’s happily divorced Sid—cheerfully sings the lyrics “I’m single/I want to mingle/Beware beautiful girls” while surrounded by knockout babes writhing around in barely-there bikinis.

Sadly, it’s all downhill from there, for us if not necessarily for Sid. Having successfully divested himself of the bonds of holy matrimony, the genial goofball decides to help others enjoy the same freedom. Setting himself up as a self-proclaimed “divorce expert,” Sid designs and executes scenarios to give unhappy husbands and/or wives grounds for divorce in exchange for large sums of money. One of his schemes, for example, finds him seducing a gold-digger at the behest of her older, wealthier husband, who arranges to catch them in the act and fake a heart attack. When the “grieving” widow subsequently celebrates her good fortune, Sid captures the whole thing on a digital recorder, which her hubby can use as evidence in court. It’s a dirty job, but hey—somebody’s gotta do it and nobody’s better at this profession than Sid, who takes great pleasure in bringing deliverance to aggrieved spouses.

While he prefers to work alone, a case of mistaken identity unexpectedly awards him a sidekick in the form of Sonali (Bipasha Basu), a stunning single lady who helps him out on one assignment and immediately gets a taste for the excitement (and enormous checks) that the gig brings. Working together, this dynamic duo keeps India’s divorce lawyers, to say nothing of the country’s civil courts, supremely busy. And do I even need to mention that the more time they spend together, the more their professional relationship turns personal? Well, to be precise, it turns personal for Sonali, while the skittish Sid still tries to fight his feelings.

That changes after they land their biggest case yet, one that involves following a cheating business tycoon, Marc (Milind Soman), and his mistress to Greece. All that lovely Grecian scenery (much of which was shot on location) puts Sid in the loving mood, so much so that he decides that, rather than send the businessman and his estranged wife Maggie (Dipannita Sharma) to divorce court, he and Sonali should get them back together instead. Their plan goes off without an apparent hitch and, in the process, the two of them fall into each other’s arms for one passionate night. But the following morning, it becomes clear that Sid hasn’t been entirely on the level about the whole Marc and Maggie situation and his secret upends his relationship with Sonali and eventually forces him to reconsider his pro-divorce stance.

Since this twist is the one (minor) surprise that the story throws our way, I’ll refrain from giving more away here. Still, it’s not enough to turn the movie around, lending Jodi Breakers only a momentary jolt before it quickly settles back into its stale, sitcommy ways. Worse still, to make up for the celebration of the divorced lifestyle that permeates the first half, the rest of the movie works overtime to re-establish the importance of marriage, which means lots of turgid, self-serious emoting. It doesn’t help matters that, as a screen couple, Madhavan and Basu are far more likeable as friends with benefits than true-blue lovers.

Perhaps it was expecting too much of a slapdash studio production such as this one to take the kinds of creative risks that would result in more provocative storytelling and social commentary. Nevertheless, Jodi Breakers feels like a missed opportunity; in the right hands, it could have been a broad, crowd-pleasing comedy along the lines of Knocked Up that mixes hearty laughs with relatable observations about contemporary male/female relationships. Instead, it’s just a generic, instantly forgettable multiplex programmer.