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Jadoo – Review – movieScope

Writer/director Amit Gupta follows up his 2011 feature début Resistance with another intriguing tale of a family under duress. While his first film was set in an isolated Welsh village during the heart of World War II, Jadoo takes place in the rather more accessible surroundings of modern day Leicester’s Hindi community. Yet its themes of loyalty, loss and acceptance are no less compelling.

Brothers Raja (Harish Patel) and Jagi (Kulvinder Ghir) are both incredibly talented chefs but, instead of being united by their love of food, are in the throes of a bitter and long-running dispute. Having torn their family cookbook in half, they now run competing Indian restaurants on the same Leicester street—one renowned for its amazing starters, and one for its incredible main courses. It’s up to Raja’s daughter Shalini (Amara Karan) to attempt to heal the rift, by entering the brothers into a high-profile cooking competition and asking the pair of them to cater her upcoming wedding.

Jadoo is a deeply personal story—Gupta’s inspiration for the screenplay is his family’s long-standing Leicester-based Indian restaurant—and it absolutely shows. The story unfolds organically, the relationships are natural and emotions are universal, without any sense of compromise to its strong cultural identity. And it’s that sense of identity which grounds Jadoo; this is not Indian life as seen through the multi-coloured prism of Bollywood, rather the real, and often challenging, experiences of an ordinary family.

And, just as food is so crucial to that everyday Indian family life, so it fuels Gupta’s narrative. Indeed, food could be said to be a supporting character here; it is ever present, and underscores every emotion. It’s so authentic, both in its importance and its mouthwatering presentation, that it leaps off the screen, deftly playing on the senses to draw viewer into the story. That’s helped by some sumptuous cinematography by Roger Pratt; bringing his Oscar-nominated talents to the fore, and shooting on 35mm, he showcases the Midlands as a vibrant, welcoming feast for the senses. A sequence in which the characters celebrate Holi, the festival of colour, is particularly memorable.

While all that food, glorious food may threaten to steal the show, the film has a strong cast, with many familiar faces. Patel and Ghir are both accomplished comic actors, and spark off each other as the feuding brothers—although their most powerful scene, which comes late in the film, is fuelled by a palpable sense of grief and regret. Karan is charming as Shalini, and effectively shoulders the dichotomy of the new British Asian generation; fiercely loyal to her family and its traditions, she is also forging a new path with a job in London and an English surgeon for a fiancé. Indeed, Shalini’s quest to reunite her family is mirrored in her own personal journey to reconcile the two very different facets of her own life; an interesting narrative thread which will undoubtedly resonate with audiences from all cultures.

By drawing on his personal experiences, and tapping into wider themes of family and identity, Gupta has created the recipe for an intimate and heartfelt look at life in the British Indian community. That there are plenty of laughs along the way—not to mention all that tempting cuisine—makes Jadoo all the more appetising.

4 stars




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