Time for a desert safar(i). So carry gallons of water (even blood can’t buy you more), ample sun block and a spirit that doesn’t drain along the dusty roads (of Rann of Kutch, Gujarat). There will be camels for company too, so beware; it will be a slow, rugged, bumpy, but breathtaking ride.
Bakka’s (Purab) the paani ka devta of his poor, water-starved village in the middle of the desert. He’s blessed with the power of divining water spots in barren lands. There’s also a scorching enmity with the neighbouring gaon as they own a water well and Bakka’s sweetheart, Kesar (Kirti). In the meanwhile, a pretty Russian animal activist, Kim (Jules) (who makes the village men’s throat go dry!) sets camp here to save flamingos from dying in the only water-body in the village. Fascinated with the gori chamri villagers enthusiastically help her to source fresh water for the feathered beauties. Her project soars, but what about the drought-struck village-folk who are waiting to break into a blood bath over one boond of water?
‘Jal’ captures the bare beauty of the golden cracked earth and its tortuous tapestry in artfully mounted frames (cinematography: Sunita Radia). It’s a picture-perfect album with stark sights and parched souls. The story is stirring, handling several complex issues in the same breath, and yes, that does leave us a bit thirsty. It also needs a better edit. There are over-dramatized scenes (Bakka dragged across the desert) to enhance visual impact, but the solid performances and soundtrack make up for it.
Debutant director Girish Malik throws in some light-hearted moments, which nicely water down the intensity of those long, sun-stroked scenes. Purab impressively shines in one of his best roles ever (dashing in his dhotis), Tannishtha is fiery and fabulous, Kirti shows a lot of spark (she’s hot too!). Ravi Gossain (as Bakka’s best friend) is excellent and Yashpal and Mukul (Bakka’s rival) lend good support. The story scatters often like a fistful of sand, yet, for those seeking something different, go quench your thirst.
In the rustic desertland of India emerges the story of Bakka and his village folk, who’re so caught up in their war for water that it dilutes all other emotions. Most of all – love!
The Times of India