Joram review: Manoj Bajpayee carries this slow-pace survival drama on his shoulders
Joram review: Manoj Bajpayee delivers another stellar performance as a man from Jharkhand lost in the big city.
For most parts while watching Joram, my eyes were stuck on the authentic look the characters. With their multiple earrings, three nose rings and beautifully placed hair pins. For some, it may act as a distraction, but I lauded the sheer effort director Devashish Makhija put in making the characters in his story look as real as possible.
Joram might not be an outright massy, commercially viable cinema, but it makes you sit back and notice the attention given to minute details that add to the experience. I loved how Joram starts with Dasru Karketta aka Bala (Manoj Bajpayee) and his wife Vaano (Tannishtha Chatterjee) happily singing a folk song while she is swinging on a rope swing. It switches to them as migrants in a dungeon-like a room in Mumbai, where they are singing the same song, but the smiles have gone now, and swing is now made of a cloth and there lies their three-month-old daughter, Joram.
A tale of man versus nature, the film mounts its premise on the tribes from Jharkhand who fight for their survival and are turning victims at the cost of development. The film talks about the time when the open lands of Jharkhand have been sold to a mega-company (named Pragati Steel) for mining iron, and it has resulted in felling of thousands of trees. Even the water in the rivers is depleting and the community of tribals is forced to vacate the lands where they claim they have lived on for over 2000 years. Leader of Adivasi community, Phulo Karma (Smita Tambe) is the mind behind this deal, but there are more layers to her character than what is presumed in the beginning of the film. At first when Dasru shifts from Jhinpindi, Jharkhand to Mumbai, he’s only running away from his troubled past as a maoist. But, soon, Dasru’s world is shattered on seeing his wife brutally murdered. He’s forced to run for his life with his daughter strapped to him in a sling. Sub inspector Ratnakar (Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub) has been sent to capture Dasru, and for reasons best known to him, he keeps telling his men, ‘Marna nahi hai, zinda pakadna hai (he has to be caught alive)’.
At 119 minutes, Joram bears a gripping storyline but it can’t still be called an edge-of-the-seat survival drama. There are predictable turns every now and them. At one scene, as Dasru runs with his baby, there are as many as 20 armed men firing gunshots at him, but he still manages to escape. Such an unreal moment was a bit too much to take in. Another problem I felt throughout the film was the lack of clarity in dialogues. Yes, each and every character has picked the dialect of the said tribe very well, but that somehow results in most lines being barely understood, in some cases, words sounded muffled.
On the positives, Joram’s non-linear narrative showing us Dasru as a maoist in his village in Jharkhand and then as a worker on a construction site in Mumbai, keeps you invested in the story. Joram makes thought-provoking social commentary many times. For instance, when Dasru is referred to as a bahaari (outsider) in Mumbai, he says he is an outsider even in Jharkhand — something that reflects on the plight of most migrants.
Watch out for the handheld camera shots that build the tension and chaos. Then, the fabulously shot train sequence is a masterclass in acting and cinematography that every filmmaking student must take a note of. There are quite a few unsettling visuals in Joram and Makhija doesn't try to tone them down. The rawness he keeps in his characters as well as the settings, is loud and clear. Even in the emotionally charged scenes, Makhija doesn’t let the chaos settle.
Bajpayee doesn’t need any validation, as he absolutely gets into the skin of Dasru, to the extent that he completely surrenders himself and that’s evident in every single frame. His rustic avatar, conviction in the character he’s playing is an award-winning act. His dialogue, ‘Gaon se nahin bhaaga, bandook se bhaaga’ is heartwreching. Chatterjee in a special appearance leaves a lasting impact. Tambe takes the cake with a riveting performance as an indifferent and ruthless MLA. Her dialogues and how she enacts with her eyes are enough to send chills down your spine. Zeeshan Ayub as a conflicted cop plays his part well, though I felt his role could have been better written.
Despite being a powerful and riveting story about systematic imbalance, and more, Joram will interest a very niche audience for it never reaches the momentum that is needed to keep one hooked. There is an intrigue to know what’s next but that’s about it. Watch it for yet another superbly flawless act by Manoj Bajpayee.