Starring: Manoj Bajpayee, Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub, Rajshri Deshpande, Tannishtha Chatterjee, Smita Tambe
Director: Devashish Makhija
This new film branded a “survival thriller” has been making headlines on the film festival circuit for some time now. As it gets ready to hit the cinemas this week, let’s explore what is behind all the attention that the lead actor and others have attracted.
Dasru (Bajpayee), an innocent tribal from a tiny village in Jharkhand, is deeply in love with Vaano (Chatterjee) and together they have made a blissfully romantic life for themselves as farmers tilling their fertile land. The couple’s simple life gets an unexpected jolt as a proposed new factory begins to encroach upon their ancestral property in the garb of “progress” for their village.
The couple is forced to flee their home to make ends meet as migrant construction workers on a building site in Mumbai, where they are blessed with a baby girl named Joram. When a political leader named Phulo Karma (Tambe) visits the site to distribute gifts in the hope of winning votes ahead of an impending local election, she bonds with the couple over their roots in the same village. While Dasru seems mildly suspicious, Vaano is the consummate host to this visiting dignitary.
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However, moments after this uneasy interaction, Dasru’s life turns upside down as he is forced to go on the run to save three-month-old Joram from unknown killers. An overworked cop, Ratnakar (Ayyub), is forced to head the police team charged with hunting down Dasru – branded a militant on cleverly manipulated television footage. Will on-the-run Dasru succeed in saving Joram’s life or will this naïve tribal fall victim to politics being played at a level he is ill-equipped to fully fathom?
This gritty film deserves all the praise it has garnered on the film festival circuit. It is not only packed with some of the most hard-hitting performances but also very gripping writing and direction, with multiple layers of meaning packed into every scene.
In the chase to nab Dasru, the audience is taken through a disconcerting race of our times that has torpedoed through innocent tribal lives in the name of so-called progress. A land of lush green trees and babbling brooks has given way to factories and dams, often at a very heavy cost to humanity. Add to this mix the toxic effects of social media and the result is an uncomfortable new world that seems headed towards a disaster of our own making.
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While these heavy subjects play out at length through this very compact film, ‘Joram’ offers a protagonist for the audience to readily root for as he fights against time to save the life of an adorable little baby in his arms. The shocking violence in some scenes adds to the urgency of his mission.
The result is a very impactful tale that captures the dilemmas, struggles and stark realities of our time with moving sensitivity.