Jal: Film Review

Girish Malik’s Jal chronicles a man’s quest for water in the barren lands of the Rann of Kutch.

When Elizabeth Kerr of The Hollywood Reporter stated "A breathtakingly photographed tragedy of Shakesperean proportion," I was definitely expecting a lot more from this film. But unfortunately, it doesn’t take much time for a good film to turn sour.

Bakka (Purab Kohli) is a water diviner. (In case you are wondering who is a water diviner- Water diviner is a person with a special skill of locating underground water resource with the help of divining rods.) Jal traces the story of Bakka or ‘Pani ka devta‘, as labelled by the villagers. Bakka stays in the middle of nowhere. There are a handful of huts with almost dying villagers. One camel. Oh yes, there is a ‘dushman gaon‘ also to spice things up. But the mundane lives of the villagers were about change. Enters Kim (Saidah Jules), a Russian  ornithologist. And as expected half of the village men went gaga over her. Kim’s mission is to provide fresh water to the dying flamingos. So with Kim came a drilling machine, a government official and two other researchers.

Jal is visually-stunning, no doubt. Sunita Radia glorified the Rann of Kutch like never before. The shots are beautiful. At a certain point, you might feel that you paid money just to watch the Rann of Kutch on the silver screen. It’s all backdrop, nothing else.

Girish Malik earnest efforts to divulge on the topic of water paucity is appreciated. However, the narratives are loosely scripted. The focus of film abruptly changed from quest for water to quest for love. At some point, if the villagers are making a hullabaloo over scarcity of water, the next moment they are in a jocular mood and curious about why Bakka has locked himself up for 10 days after his wedding.

It is delightful to watch Purab Kohli as the protagonist Bakka. He sincerely carried out his act. As an over-confident water diviner and as a passionate (sometimes… lusty) lover he lends his character much charisma and intensity. I fail to understand the character of Kesar played by Kirti Kulhari. Her first appearance is ferocious, leading a gang of women. And suddenly her character is shifted to a much demure woman, ready to be swooned over by Bakka of the ‘dushman gaon.’ Nonetheless, Kirti Kulhari definitely came a long way from Shaitan. Mukul Dev as Puniya is bland and barren just like the Rann of Kutch. To top it all, there is quite an uncomfortable and awkward scene between Puniya and Kajri (Tannistha Chatterjee).

There is wit and humor. There are vivid characters. But somehow, nothing falls in place. Even the gorgeous-looking backdrop didn’t uplift the film. The quote of Hollywood Reporter in the beginning of the movie is also another blooper.

The soundtracks composed by Bickram Ghosh and Sonu Nigam is illustrious. But only if good shots and music could save a film…

Why must you watch the film?
Of course, the visuals. If you want to just sit with a bucket of popcorn and take a visual tour of the Rann of Kutch, this is it. Also watch it for Purab Kohli. He gives a very clean and crisp performance. Loved the way he evolved as an actor.

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