Jump review: A portrait of the disquieting terrain of loneliness in crowded cities

Written and directed by Maneesh Verma, Jump is a black comedy with Sandeep Shikhar and Vidushi Chadha in the lead

6 min readApr 23, 2024
Vidushi Chadha and Sandeep Shikhar in a scene from Jump

By Reema Gowalla

Rating: *** and a half

Plangent music and a smattering of f**k offs set the mood for writer-director Maneesh Verma’s very ‘urban’ dark comedy Jump, which recently wrapped up its first run of Bengaluru shows. Poverty, patriarchy, depression, isolation, loneliness and suicide are among the themes that the play consciously investigates. But one cannot not notice the empathy and tender intimacy that brews between the two characters on stage — played by actors Sandeep Shikhar and Vidushi Chadha — indicating that Jump is as much a love story between two strangers divided by cultural background and social status.

The story unfolds on a mundane evening in Mumbai, when a well-paid female corporate executive decides to take her life by jumping off the rooftop of a high-rise building in the city. But why? Is she in some debt? Did she break up with her partner? Is it because of a frosty relationship with her father? Or is she suffering from clinical depression? We will understand that through the course of the play.

She takes a rickety elevator to reach the dilapidated rooftop, sits and reads a letter, eats a pastry, dances for a bit, and is all set to kill herself. But just then, a cab driver (a migrant from Bihar, who holds a master’s degree in Political Science) enters the scene. After a long day’s work, the rooftop is his only place to retire for a few hours before he goes back to a dingy apartment, which he shares with two other men in the same building. In a thela, he brings a bottle of narangi and some chakhna. But with this woman present there that evening, his little ‘peaceful party corner’ is definitely raided. He finds her in a rather manic state, but somehow manages to persuade her not to jump off the building.

The set is designed by

The woman finally calms down and they start talking to each other — her mostly speaking English slang and him responding in Hindi, of course under the influence of desi daru, of which she too takes a few sips. Jump is loosely based on a piece, titled Umbrella, written by US-based theatremaker Larry Pontius. However, it’s Maneesh’s personal experiences during his recent mountaineering pursuits that poignantly ushers in a new and more relevant narrative.

Jump is a 90-minute play that focuses on life, death and everything in between. The undertone is at once philosophical and hyper realistic. Although the exchange between the two characters — where one has a nihilistic bent of mind and the other existential — is obviously contradicting in nature, the narrative does not deviate from its central tenets. The cab driver’s rhetorical perspective on gender stereotypes — be it about a city girl smoking cigarettes or a village woman enjoying her bidi — dovetails with a successful yet self-loathing corporate executive’s cynicism, as she blames her childhood traumas, hollow romantic encounters and stressful city life for her negative outlook.

Not that he is in love with the mayanagari, but the migrant taxi driver considers Vada Pav, Bhelpuri, 24x7 water-electricity supply and the freedom to move about anywhere in the city without being judged a blessing. He has a completely different take on loss and grief. Unable to pay off a loan, the cab driver’s farmer father had committed suicide when he was still very young, yet he doesn’t hesitate to express his opinion about how a suicide note should read like. On the other hand, the woman (who holds the position of a chief marketing officer with an MNC) feels that the hustle and bustle of the big city have slowly consumed the person that she once used to be, and now she has no desire to live on.

From the slogan of ‘India Shining’ to farmers’ suicide; suppressed emotions and depression to expensive therapy sessions; the toxic urge of materialistic gains to missing out on spending time with the handful of genuine, compassionate people we have in our lives — Jump addresses the several aspects of modern-day life that contribute to our deteriorating mental well-being.

The play is engaging, profound and thought-provoking. It’s thumping and loud, but not overlapping. Maneesh has impressively kept the depth and nuances of the script intact, without compromising on the message that the play wants to convey. One may argue that we have been reading and watching so much about mental health lately, what’s the new perspective that Jump is shedding light on? The play is keeping the conversation alive! It stresses why urban isolation and solitude in crowded cities is a virtual pandemic that needs to be tackled with timely intervention, empathy and compassion.

The set (also designed by Maneesh) plays a crucial role in the narrative. From empty plastic drums, a broken chair, a commode and an umbrella to two large hoardings and projections of tall buildings in the backdrop, every element on stage is carefully mapped out and executed. The messy props also symbolise the chaotic state of the characters’ minds. The background score (soundscape by Sahil Vaid) is in tandem with the setting and storyline, albeit a bit too overpowering at times. The play’s witty and often inerrant dialogues (mostly those written for Sandeep’s character) deserve a special mention here.

Maneesh Verma

Cut to the actors, Sandeep — who makes a comeback to theatre after the pandemic with Jump — has centripetal force in the play. He is rustic, amusing and incredibly true to his character. Be it his reluctance to openly speak about his wife who stays in the village, finding joy in haathi-cheeti jokes or his faith in god that ‘jo hota hai achhe ke liye hi hota hai’ — Sandeep splendidly depicts the plight of India’s burdened common man, for whom even death is a privilege. Meanwhile, Vidushi is relentlessly brilliant in her portrayal of the devastating mental and physical consequences of chronic loneliness in metropolitan cities. Blame the lack of solidarity at home and workplace, an increasing number of adults are finding it more liberating to take the extreme step. Vidushi manoeuvres a rather difficult role with a lot of conviction and ease.

But it’s the conversation and the banter between the two characters that steals the show! Fidgety, drunk and abhorrent to life, they dole out words of wisdom for each other. What the play celebrates though is the power of human bonding. A healthy discourse always brings hope. Don’t miss the ending of the play, and it’s not a monologue.

The play takes forward the conversation around mental health