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Jal review: Leaves you unmoved!

Movie:
Jal
Director:
Girish Malik
Cast:
Purab Kohli, Kirti Kulhari, Tannishtha Chatterjee, Saidah Jules
Avg user rating:

Contrary to what the title says, the film is not really about water. An attempt to unravel human equations in a situation of scarcity would be more accurate.

We see a village in the Rann of Kutch. Surrounded by the desert and constantly in need of water, the village depends on Bakka (Purab Kohli) who is known as the 'paani ka devta' (god of water). Using technique and intuition, Bakka often identifies spots that can be dug for water.

The cynical villagers rarely help him and tend to remember the times he went wrong, rather than being grateful. In fact, Bakka's relation with the villagers is never quite clear. At times, they support and indulge him, and in an instant are willing to diss him.

Things take a turn when a foreign ornithologist team from Russia sets up camp to study flamingoes and transport freshwater to reverse the mass death of flamingo babies. They employ villagers, and trouble starts when the villagers want the well-digging machine for themselves.

Meanwhile, Bakka has fallen for the daughter of the enemy village, leaving another hopeful suitor (Mukul Dev, playing the bad guy) fuming. Their romance begins when Bakka professes his love, having entered the makeshift private room where she's taking a bath. Perhaps the attempt was to add a dose of exotica in the film, but the copulating scenes between Bakka and Kesar (Kirti Kulhari) are woefully clumsy. There's a portion out of nowhere where she's dressed in huge gold ornaments, and nothing much else. Adding exotica in a film such as this needed far more masterful execution.

Debut filmmaker Girish Malik's direction is inconsistent. His repetitive use of fade-outs for transitions is tiresome. Towards the end, you wonder what the film was trying to say. You don't get much information about the scarcity of water and how the villagers cope; the love story that turns into a quadrangle is a drag; the lovemaking scenes are awkward and incongruous.

The humour is embarrassingly inept. The constant gags are the local men salivating over the Russian women, and their ignorance over the issue they're working on. This condescending take on villagers made this writer very uncomfortable. Why show most of the villagers as ignorant clowns, lechers or plain corrupt?

The film does have a few interesting moments. There's that amusing scene of a honeymooning couple not coming out for ten days as villagers gather outside, laying bets on when it'll open. And those involving the crafty manager (Yashpal Sharma) who works as a link between the foreign team and villagers.

Purab Kohli proves to be a revelation, with an earnest and evocative performance. The supporting cast has some solid names that give a consistent performance. The actors playing the foreign crew are a let-down.

About the only glorious aspect of the film is Sunita Radia's cinematography giving us breathtaking visual splendor. There are beautiful shots of the arid desert, ritualistic dances, celebrations around the campfire and giant sand tornados. The music of the film (composed by Sonu Nigam and Bickram Ghosh) is another plus, particularly the title track sung by Shubha Mudgal.

So what you get in the end is a gorgeous looking, muddled film that leaves youunmoved. But isn't that the most important thing?

Rating: Two and a half stars

 

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