Four years ago, the Kannada romantic tragedy Diacatapulted actor Pruthvi Ambaar to fame. Since his big breakthrough, Pruthvi has chosen concept-based scripts over run-of-the-mill stories. While it’s encouraging to see a rising actor seeking unique content, Pruthvi can go places only if his passion for quality cinema gets the support of filmmakers who convert their novel ideas into engaging movies.
If his Sugarless was about a young man’s battle with diabetes, Pruthvi’s Doordarshan explored the importance of television in the 1980s. In this week’s release Juni, the actor plays chef-cum-cafe owner Partha, who falls in love with Juni (Rishika Naik), a sketch artist suffering from dissociative personality disorder (commonly called multiple personality disorder). A shy and introverted Juni gets controlled by two more personalities: the adventurous Mansi and the aggressive Chaki, “who thinks and behaves like a man.”
Director: Vaibhav Mahadev
Cast: Pruthvi Ambaar, Rishika Naik, Vinaya Prasad,
Runtime: 138 minutes
Storyline: Partha, an easy-going cafe owner, falls in love with an artist named Juni, only to discover that she has a multiple personality disorder. Will love stand the test of societal stigma?
Director Vaibhav Madhav attempts a straightforward take on dissociative personality disorder, and that’s what makes Juni different from other well-known Indian films that have dealt with this mental health condition. In a touching scene, Juni breaks down in front of Partha, stressing how her condition isn’t something for people to be scared of. Just like in Dia, Pruthvi gets a character that mostly plays second fiddle to its female counterpart, and the actor is utterly at ease as a man drawn into an unconventional relationship. He convincingly represents an ideal man who is sensitive about his girlfriend’s condition. Despite slipping in some places, debutant Rishika does justice to a tricky role.
Director Vaibhav Madhav gives convincing reasons for the birth of both the personalities of Juni. However, he fails to offer them the same depth and attention he gives to writing Juni. The scenes reflecting Mansi’s personality are shoddily executed; one important scene reminds us of Vikram switching between two personalities in the Tamil hit Anniyan.
Juni is not as big scale as S Shankar’s film nor as focused as Fazil’s Malayalam film Manichitrathazhu, and yet, it could have been a well-rounded film with its specialities had it focused on its secondary characters who get prominence in the final act. The tumultuous relationship between Partha’s parents is handled half-heartedly.
The film further loses its grip when it stops being a female-oriented story and turns its focus on Partha. Juni becomes an average commercial film that gives its hero a chance to transform himself. Had this plot turn come with adequate build-up, we could have rooted more for the protagonist.
The movie’s uneven pace is another shortcoming. The movie starts off sluggishly as the director attempts to create a feel-good drama between the leads, but the drama isn’t meaty enough. Juni picks up well when the central conflict is introduced, but loses steam in the end as it turns melodramatic.
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Juni joins recent Kannada films such as Tatsama Tadbhava and Case of Kondana for not fully realising its potential. These films have great moments, but they struggle to come together as a whole. Their fate isn’t entirely bad as they get praised in the OTT space, where people’s expectations are lower. That said, those who happen to watch Juni on the big screen will not be entirely disappointed.
Juni is currently running in theatres