Sunday, April 06, 2014


Water Woes

Jal takes up an issue that should concern everybody, if it doesn’t already-- the water shortage that has started killing animals and will soon affect human life in parts of the country (and the world).

But Girish Malik’s film set in the arid Rann of Kutch, cannot settle on the right tone. It’s neither serious enough to be disturbing, not interesting enough to be engaging.  It tries for a mix of exotic and realistic, which simply doesn’t work. It also throws too many strands into the air, and can’t get a proper hold on any.

Bakka (Purab Kohli) is a water diviner in a tiny, parched desert village.  The inhabitants claim to be starving, but are dressed in gleaming ethnic costumes and all look well-fed.  For a film taking a mostly realistic approach,Jal glosses over details like how the villagers make a living. They drive chhakdas, talk about blue CDs, but there is no evidence of that kind of progress.

 When a foreigner (Saidah Jules) arrives to study flamingos, she is shocked to find many dead chicks.  She is able to pull enough strings to get a government team to fetch a huge drill to find fresh water for the birds, but is curiously apathetic towards the villagers—maybe because all they do is leer at her and make crass comments.

In between the water woes, there’s a love story between Bakka and a girl from an enemy village (Kirti Kulhari), the machinations of her thwarted suitor (Mukul Dev) and the heartbreak of his childhood sweetheart (Tannishtha Chatterjee).  A very contrived plot twist hurtles Bakka into tragedy.

No matter how much one tries to empathise with the characters, Malik’s treatment just never manages to draw the viewer into the desperate world of these neglected villagers. The location is captured beautifully, though, even if it’s all gleaming and touristy with CGI twisters and storms showing up at regular intervals.


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