True Review

True Review: Primetime Fantasy RomCom

True Review: Primetime Fantasy RomCom

by Piroj Wadia May 21 2014, 2:22 pm Estimated Reading Time: 3 mins, 45 secs

SAB TV’s fantasy RomCom Jeanie Aur Juju goes off air in June, to be replaced by an alien comedy — Badi Dooooor Se Aaye Hain. Jeanie Aur Juju, a prime time show helmed by Ali Asgar has been on air since November 2012. This family entertainer, wasn’t a new concept, as we have had other bewitching sitcoms like Shararat, which was inspired by Sabrina the Teen Witch.

Back in the 1960s, Sidney Sheldon, the best-selling novelist, penned a TV show that merged situational comedy with fantasy. His intent was to offer competition to the then-popular TV series Bewitched that revolved around a witch trying to lead the life of a regular housewife.

I Dream of Jeanie revolved around Captain Tony Nelson, an astronaut, who discovers a bottle on a deserted island, where he is stranded following an accident. Upon opening it appears Jeannie, a djinn who has been trapped inside for 2,000 years. She falls in love with her saviour and accompanies him home without his knowledge after making sure that he is rescued. The five-season series then revolved around Jeannie’s antics to please her Master and his efforts to keep her existence a secret. I Dream of Jeanie went on to become an iconic show in America. It was aired in India close to three decades later, in the 90s on Sony.

Sab TV, owned by Sony network, which owns the distribution rights for the show, adapted it in Hindi as Jeannie Aur Juju. They entrusted the show to Eagle Films; the Rajeev Mehra helmed production house is no stranger to adapting shows. In 1993-94 they gave Indian viewers a singular sitcom – Zabaan Sambhalke which was an adaptation of the 1977 British sitcom Mind Your Language. Hence, I Dream of Jeanie/ Jeanie Aur Juju was in safe hands.

The key characters remain the same as the original although their names are Indianised. Captain Tony Nelson is Captain Vikram Khanna, a pilot, portrayed by Ali Asgar. But Jeannie lovingly calls him Juju. The other recurring characters include Vikram’s boss and owner of Priya Airlines, his daughter Priya, who is Vikram’s possessive girlfriend, Vikram’s jigri dost Captain Virendra Lakhanpal aka Vela, Dr Cyrus Doctor, a health specialist at Priya Airlines, and Vicky’s nosy neighbours Chatur and Durga Ganguly.

Within a year of the series going on air, Gia Manek was replaced by Rubina Dilaik. Gia’s pert presence was the driving force of each initial episode as she turns Vikram’s life and house into a complete melee by the hour. Of course, it gets worse as Priya, who is the light of Vikram’s life keeps dropping in and Jeanie fouls up her visits – after all, since Juju has brought her out of the bottle after 2000 years, his wish is her command and she is now bound to him. Much to Vicky’s exasperation.

The comic timing which was so essential for the genre was kept in focus — as Vela, Vicky’s friend and colleague keeps bungling up situations. Harsh Khurana sure does have a natural inclination for comedy – Vela is part Reggie when it comes to women and part goofy Archie. Ashiesh Roy and Jhumma Mitra as Vicky’s snooping neighbours Chatur and Durga Ganguly are priceless. Their curiosity gets the better of them as Jeanie works her magic around the house and them foiling their expeditions. They are exposed all the visitors from Jhinjora who each hold them spellbound.

Barring a few steadfast characters Jeanie Aur Juju is visited by a stream of characters – from Jhinjora – some good and some with evil designs. The permanent house guests are now Jhunjhun and Genius, Jeanie’s kid cousins. This pair invariably weaves spells on Vela and Vicky, needless to add they mess up big time. Both child actors have their own charm.

While both Gia Manek and Rubina Dilaik played Jeanie with their respective flair and touches; it is Ali Asgar who has finally been validated with a lead role. Ali Asgar’s potential in comedy still needs to be fully acknowledged and explored. He has what it takes to be a consummate entertainer – his comic timing and his energetic dancing are Ali’s assets.

As Jeanie Aur Juju winds to a closure, there’s going to be still more romance in the air; enjoy the antics and magic till it lasts.

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