Good luck, Jerry. She needs it.
Jerry – the working-class daughter of a single mother, the sort who dresses demurely and walks with her face glued to the road – is compelled by circumstance to become a drug dealer. A strong survival instinct lurks behind Jerry’s innocent visage and retiring manner. When push comes to shove, Jerry shoves, and hard.
Good Luck Jerry, which is out on Disney+ Hotstar, is a Hindi-language remake of Nelson’s Tamil film Kolamaavu Kokila (2018). If Kolamaavu Kokila, Beast director Nelson’s feature debut, was an uproarious black comedy in the vein of Delhi Belly, Siddharth Sengupta’s frequently lachrymose Good Luck Jerry takes its cues from Udta Punjab.
Like Udta Punjab’s Bihari character Bauria, Jerry has moved from Darbhanga in Bihar to a town in Punjab. Her mother Sarbati (Mita Vashisht) has an illness whose treatment runs into the kind of zeroes that only the drug trade can match.
After a chance encounter with drug lord Timmy (Jaswant Singh Dalal), Jerry becomes adept at transporting cocaine. Jerry’s skill earns her Timmy’s adoration and the envy of his employees. Timmy and distributor Malik (Saurabh Sachdeva) have a boss, Daler, (Sushant Singh), who is first seen perched on a toilet seat, willing his bowels into action.
Pankaj Matta’s screenplay, which includes stretches of Punjabi dialogue that will necessitate the use of subtitles, frequently includes ick-making situations. One of Good Luck Jerry’s big mysteries is the creative choices made by its creators. Not for the first time does a remake miss the reason why the source material worked in the first place.
Kolamaavu Kokila sold its conceit – a seemingly mousy woman turns out to the fox of the jungle – through farcical situations, brilliantly written humour and an array of fleshed-out characters. Although led by Tamil star Nayanthara, Kolamaavu Kokila ensured that even minor players stood out in the melee. (The film is available with subtitles on ZEE5).
Good Luck Jerry attempts to trim the bloat that weighted down the original movie. Lost in the streamlining are the quirks and layers that could have made Jerry’s journey more engaging. The unevenly paced film simply isn’t invested enough in Jerry’s mission to make it seem unusual or life-altering.
The translocation to a North Indian setting lends an edge of despair to Jerry’s efforts. On the verge of a nervous breakdown at times, Jerry’s unusual money-making project has a melodramatic flavour that sits uncomfortably with its overall absurdism.
Several characters are introduced in a hurry, from the suitor of Jerry’s sister Cherry to Timmy’s dim-witted henchman. Timmy’s gang comprises a bunch of lecherous men who give Jerry the onceover and laugh dutifully at their boss’s weak one-liners.
Some of the casting choices work in Good Luck Jerry’s favour. Janhvi Kapoor is a good fit as the soft-faced but iron-willed Jerry. While Sushant Singh and Mita Vashisht are barely utilised, Jaswant Singh Dalal is impressive as Jerry’s lovelorn boss.
Deepak Dobriyal, playing Jerry’s biggest fan Rocky, nails the desired crackpot tone. In Rocky’s unfiltered reactions, we see the film that Good Luck Jerry could have been, rather than what it turns out to be.