My heart sank when I started watching Lionscat Play’s latest original offering Jugadistan. The show seemed to be about educational fraud, and my mind immediately went to SonyLIV’s latest series, Whistleblower. There were good actors in Jugadistan and I thought it would be in vain if it was ‘just another show of selection fraud’. In eight 40-minute episodes, Jugadistan proved me wrong. (read more: Jugadistan Trailer: Sumeet Vyas, Arjun Mathur and many more come together for the show on the dark side of college life. See)
Jugadistan is a show that cannot be assigned to any one category. It’s a campus play but not as light as Netflix’s inappropriate. This is a thriller about a large scale corruption. There is also a track about elections and contests and some cameos of popstars. It is difficult to pinpoint what Jugadistan is.
But one thing is for sure. Jugadistan is not confused. The show promises to show you college life and everything from love to campus politics and exam fraud. This is the crossroads of everything that happens within the modern college / university campus. While this show hops on genres very often to my liking, it does so very smoothly.
Jugadistan tells the story of students, faculty, agents and fictional university enthusiasts as they move around the campus. From a good student caught up in a scandal to a campus politician and a shadowy fraud agent or an idealistic journalist, the characters are drawn from the people we see around us. Incidents are also taken from reality. The campus in Jugadistan is simply called City University, but many references to Sarojini Nagar, Kooni Jill and U-Special buses make it clear that it is a fictional version of Delhi University.
The writing on the show is decent, but not great enough to keep you on edge like a thriller. The premise feels real, but even if the stakes are high, you won’t feel the stumble of the characters or the danger they pose. You do not worry about death or get angry at betrayals. A story like this should captivate the viewer and not push the pause button. That’s where the show fails to a degree.
Given the talented ensemble cast, the cast could have been the strength of the show. But the only problem is, most actors act like that. Ahsas Sanna is a student again, Arjun Mathur is at home as a man between a rock and a hard place, and the happy Gopal Dutt has come to another loving disgusting act. They all do well, but we’ve seen them in these characters before, probably often. For me, the star of the show is Sumeet Vyas, who sees his student leader Gaurav Pathi ending up as a caricature. We have seen the Haryana student student politician on screen many times, but Sumeet brings a mix of charm and realism that impresses the character and his path.
It was a refreshing surprise to see the talented Neelima Azimi as the University Vice-Chancellor and wished he had more time available. Similarly, Paramprada Chatterjee justifies her role as the teacher who is embroiled in that scandal. But writing – and plenty of storylines – we will never fully invest in his journey.
While pretending to be a campus rookie and trying to be a bad thriller, Jugadistan also finds time as a Bollywood musician. The less I say about the music above, the better it works. But I did not expect Mika Singh and Akasa to sing original songs on the show about exam fraud. That is, because there is no appropriate adjective for something.
read more: How Jugathist actor Ahsoz Channa cheats on his strict mom and uses friends to meet boyfriend
Despite its shortcomings, the show manages to entertain. Given its type-push nature, it is likely to appeal to a wider audience than any regular thriller or campus drama. But Ajay Devgn’s OTT debut was released the same weekend, with the low-rated thriller Season 2, an Amitabh Bachchan film and The Batman, which may have been eye-catching early on. Directed by Agarsh Khurana and Adar Khurana, Jugadisthan airs on Lionskate Play from Friday, March 4.
Director: Agarsh Khurana and Adar Khurana
actors: Sumeet Vyas, Arjun Mathur, Paramprada Chatterjee, Ahsas Sanna, Rukshar Dhillon, Taruk Raina, Gopal Dutt