The road movie, usually the preserve of male characters seeking meaning and redemption, gets a gender update in Jia aur Jia. That is about all there is to say about the October 27 release.

Jia aur Jia never quite justifies its existence as a feature-length drama in the cinemas. Howard Rosemeyer’s chick flick might have worked as a straight-to-the-web project, perhaps at half its length. There’s little flesh on the bone here: the humour is forced, the chemistry between the leads absent, the Swedish locations underutilised, the production quality shabby.

The contrivance kicks in very early on. Jia, a self-described banker, is forced to share her Sweden trip with cafe owner Jia (Kalki Koechlin) because her Paytm account doesn’t have enough money in it. The banker is as stiff and inhibited as the cafe owner is exuberant and gregarious. As they share hotel rooms and a trailer that somehow seems to have fit into their budget, the women begin to warm to each other. Both the Jias have their own secrets, which have to do with the idea of life that is suggested by their names.

Koechlin overplays the cigarette-loving and alcohol-swilling wild child as much as Chadha underplays the troubled woman with psychological troubles. The actors struggle to suggest that a deep bond is developing amidst the bickering, and neither is supported by the sluggishly paced 93-minute screenplay and glaring lack of genuinely emotional moments.

Koechlin’s Jia has even less of a spark with the only available man on the horizon – the unkempt and equally liquor-loving Vasu (Arslan Goni). In a movie more attuned to women travelling unsupervised in a foreign country, the two Jias might have had some more fun scoping out their prospects. What they get, instead, is a journey that leads unerringly to the exit.

Jia Aur Jia (2017).