It isn’t the star indie actor who steals the show…
MANOJ BAJPAYEE is always something of a draw and this film, ‘Joram’ somewhat lives and dies with this character.
The Joram of the film is actually his daughter – we first come across Bajpayee as Dasru, along with his wife Vaano (Tannishtha Chatterjee). They are simple construction labourers eking out a living in Mumbai and raising their young baby – when everything changes with the arrival of tribal leader Phulo Karma (Smita Tambe) in a mesmerising role and probably the strongest of the film.
For us, this is not Bajpayee’s best or director Devashish Makhija’s – who made his name with ‘Aaji’ and ‘Bhonsle’.
Bajypayee looks too much like an actor playing a tribal on the run and doesn’t inhabit the character with what comes across as a natural sensibility.
After all, this is a tribal whose sense of courage and strength was forged somewhere quite else – but he seems incapable of standing up to what is against him.
That might be a little harsh, as the film moves into a different gear altogether when things happen at the behest of Karma.
Suddenly Dasru’s quiet existence is rumbled and he has to go on the run.
His fear and trepidation is not wholly unfounded but he resembles a stressed deer that is running from point to point without much or any thought of the tiger in quiet, cold pursuit.
There are other characters, such as the local cop on his trail – Ratnakar (Mohd Zeeshan Ayub) who has to follow him back to his tribal village.
The plot backdrop isn’t bad – but it is becoming something of a familiar and easy trope – nasty, money-grabbing developers want land and will stop at nothing to get what they want.
Now, that may still be nearer the truth than those who go to such regions of India and quietly cultivate communities on the basis, jobs, income, education and health. It isn’t a one-way street by any means – and the movie does touch on that – but it doesn’t have much insight or a very distinctive narrative about it, even though some tribals’ relationship with corporates in ‘Joram’ muddies the waters.
Makhija is a strong filmmaker and intrinsically this is watchable, if a little predictable and ultimately tame.
The real character of interest is not Dasru or Bala, as he was called earlier (we understand) but Karma (Tambe), the tribal leader.
Powerful and assertive, she outfoxes the authorities and knows a reckoning with Dasru is long overdue – her backstory would be fascinating and how a woman like that emerges from a tribal society.
All in all, it’s a little monotone personally and Bajpayee in a very rare guise, doesn’t convince. Many think this film is told through his eyes but he overdoes it for us. It just comes across as little forced and clumsy.
Backed by major studios Zee, it will be interesting to see how Makhija develops and there is definitely a place for him as one of India’s hard-hitting newer voices.
ACV rating: **.5 (out of five)
‘Joram’ is out worldwide (December 8).
🎥Bajpayee was just one of several personalities from the Hindi film industry that attended the recent International Film Festival of India (IFFI – November 20-28) at the fest he joined the creative force that is behind the Amazon Studios hit show, ‘The Family Man’, where he was on a panel with directors DK and Raj, fellow actor Sreekrishna Dalal and Delhi Crime producer Apoorva Baskhi – see our video story here…