In Hindi, Jugni means firefly. It also refers to a folk song about a search. Director Shefali Bhushan takes two characters on a journey that end in different but happy and fulfilling destinations. The worlds of the meandering souls intersect in the realm of music, where they find their rhythm and voices, literally and figuratively.
Vibhavari (Sugandha Garg) is a Hindi film music composer who has lost her mojo. Her relationship in Mumbai is going nowhere and nor are her compositions. So she takes a train, a bus and a bullock cart and finally tramps on foot through rice fields in search of Punjabi folk singer Bibi Saroop (Sadhana Singh). Vibhavari does not bargain for the impact Bibi’s son Mastana (Siddhanth Behl) will have on her, not just with his rich voice, but his raw innocence and colourful disposition.
Bhushan squeezes out all the Indian exotica she can from her backdrop, complete with Sufi musicians, local band players and a particularly over-appointed hut that becomes Vibhavari’s temporary residence as she records folk and local songs. (For someone sleeping in a thatched hut, Vibhavari’s hair also remains ridiculously clean and blow-dried.) As she begins to reconnect with her inner self, the differences between the urban and the rural become patently obvious. A duet sung by Vibhavari and Mastana in the middle of a drunken night in a deserted ruin can only head in one direction. This is where the film starts losing its way. An orchestra starts playing along to an English song sung as Vibhavari strums a ukulele in the middle of a field, which then segues into a folk tune.
The morning after evokes polarised reactions from Mastana and Vibhavari. As Vibhavari eventually returns to her reality, Jugni’s sparkle starts to fade. Vibhavari’s relationship with her boyfriend is clumsily handled and the meetings with the director who has hired her are stilted. While Bhushan does delve into Vibhavari’s psychological state, Mastana’s situation, which is far more complex, is underexplored. His song is a hit, but his world is too far removed from the glamour of Mumbai. He is unable to articulate his love for Vibhavari, or explain his frustration with his environment.
Siddhant Behl (also the associate writer) is quite a find and embraces his debut role firmly with both hands. The moments between Mastana and his girlfriend Preeto (Anurita Jha) are crackling. Garg is naturalistic in some scenes but overdoes it in others.
The music enlivens a story that begins strongly but succumbs to predictability. Shellee’s lyrics and dialogues capture the essence and mood of the characters and their conflicts. Clinton Cerejo’s music adds a solid layer with vocals by established singers such as Vishal Bhardwaj, Rekha Bhardwaj and AR Rahman, among others.