In the opening portions of Karthik Saragur's Jeerjimbe, the 13-year-old protagonist Rudri (Siri Vanalli) holds a butterfly with her fingertips and admires its beauty before letting it free a moment later. The image of the butterfly runs throughout the film, as Rudri is not just inspired by the life of the insect, but aspires to become one herself.
The title of the film, Jeerjimbe, is brought in metaphorically, and quite literally, too, as Rudri and her friends dance to Jeerjimbe Jeerjimbe from the 2002 Kannada film Manasella Neene. Rudri insists that she be photographed with the wings of the butterfly on her back several times. Even two hours into the film, this particular plot point is used to give the story a twist as she chances upon her enemy Kotramma (Chitra Venkataraju), in a photo studio that she walks into with her firend Dakshi (Lavanya Natana) to get her pictures taken.
Sarkari. Hi. Pra. Shale Kasaragodu, Koduge: Ramanna Rai, the other Kannada children's film that released two-and-a-half-months ago and is still playing in theatres, starred a bunch of boys; Jeerjimbe throws light on the lives of school-going girls. Both these movies, in their own mischievous ways, showed us how different high school can be for boys and girls. While the boys had all the time in the world to fall in love and roam around in the town of Kasaragod, the girls of Jeerjimbe have sombre tales to narrate. Rudri's love-hate relationship with her kid brother, Yuvaraja, is probably the only thread in the narrative where the audiences can laugh without thinking of the consequences.
At the heart of the movie lies a serious message—child marriage—and it's packaged in a manner (a street play that explains the evils of girls getting married at a young age) that can be understood by viewers of the same age as the people they are watching on the screen. Maybe that's why it feels like an important film for teenagers and a tawdry one for the adults accompanying them.
Rudri, unlike her compatriots, is a rebel. When her brother-in-law, who lusts after her, pawns the bicycle she gets from her school, she fights for it till she loses all her strength. If her friends were in her shoes, maybe they would have let it go without making a fuss. But, for Rudri, who hasn't enjoyed the comforts of urban life, owning a bicycle is equal to fulfilling a thousand dreams. This sentiment reminded me of a conversation between Rana (Irrfan Khan) and Piku (Deepika Padukone) from Shoojit Sircar's blockbuster movie Piku, where the former pushes the latter to drive saying, "Driving liberates a woman," in response to Piku's indifference toward driving.
If Rudri had Piku's privileges, she would have driven all over India with a big grin on her face
If Rudri had Piku's privileges, she would have driven all over India with a big grin on her face. Take the scene where she learns how to ride a bicycle, for instance. Her fear of sitting on an unknown beast slowly turns into joy as she pedals her way through the nooks and crannies of Byakalahalli. Of course, this scene is supposed to be an inspirational one for the character and the viewers, but it becomes a mawkish exercise since the intention and output are on completely different lines. The cycle moves like a snake, with a fearful Rudri shouting at the top of her voice in close-up shots, but in certain wide-angle shots that immediately follow the screams, the cycle goes in a straight line.
The same mismatch appears in other places as well, but the strong social message that this movie advertises cannot be ignored. Saragur's cast is made up of fine actors, and the sunshine of the film, Suman Nagarkar, in an extended cameo, steals the show with her effortless geniality.
Charan Raj, who gave the highly energetic Tagaru Banthu Tagaru earlier this year, has worked on the magical number Yaako Yeno for this movie, which softly tells the story of a girl and her minor wins. Isn't he the composer of the season already?