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Bhoomi Review: Promising Premise That Deserved Better Treatment

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A few months ago, director Omung Kumar shared the first look of Bhoomi, and everyone was waiting to see what Sanjay Dutt’s comeback film would be like. There was a lot of grey and a splash of red. The two colours find a lot of play in the film, too.

As for hope, that mostly flies out of the window. A tale of a father and a daughter – gang-raped a day before her wedding – is pregnant with possibilities, but what we get is a film that chugs along a predictable path, features textbook villains and even salutes irony while at it.

The only layering is reserved for the climax, where hundreds of red and yellow dupattas float down a stepwell, forming layer upon layer on the water. But, I’ll admit that this could be one among the most picturesque of scenes in recent times.

But, first things first. And, in this film, that would be Sanjay Dutt as designer shoemaker Arun, who exercises by day and drinks by night, because it is not all right to do so the other way around — a father who raises his daughter to believe that it is all right to stay out late when it comes to work, and stands by her, irrespective of what the world says.

This is his first film after release from prison, and the years have lent Sanjay’s face a gravitas that just needs a good script to reveal itself. Full marks to the actor for being seen on screen as an ageing father whose hair needs a sprinkle of hair dye once in a while. When was the last time you saw a father oil and comb his daughter’s hair, and even remove “unwanted guests” (lice) from it?

Of course, he gets many chances to flex his muscles, and display some acting chops too. Some of his scenes with daughter Bhoomi (Aditi Rao Hydari) have great potential, and almost succeed in eliciting a tear, but there’s no lived-in feel to their bond; it’s too perfect.

I’m sure Aditi is waiting for that one director who would look beyond her fragile looks. Omung is not one of them! She’s chirpy in parts, devastated in some, and looks like a deer caught in the headlights for the most. But, she consistently maintains a hint of a stammer through the film.

Among the supporting cast is Shekhar Suman as Sanjay Dutt’s friend and Sidhant Gupta as Bhoomi’s fiancé. You wish it were peopled with more performers who would lend some character to the mohalla, and, in turn, the film itself.

The villains include a boy who loves a girl and seethes when she does not reciprocate, another who revels in chasing women down the badlands, and a third who goes about uttering dialogues such as “Everyone else plays hide and seek; we play hide and cheek” and “In Dholpur, everyone says ‘Save the water’; in Agra, what will become popular is ‘Save the daughter’.”

This third, Sharad Kelkar, is having the time of his life playing baddie on the big screen. He was the one redeeming factor of Baadshaho, and his Dhauli brings to life a villain who thrived in the 80s. It aches to see a television heartthrob rob people’s peace in cinema, but it’s a mark of what an actor he is.

There’s a fourth villain too, whose reveal does make you jump out of your seat, but I’ll let you experience that moment. The less said about the court scene where Sanjay rises to protest the verbal abuse of his daughter, the better.

If only Omung had structured the story to build the father-daughter bond a little better, and given her a voice too, instead of merely tears and some brief action, you would have had a film that screamed aloud a message. Instead, as always, men take up cudgels for women, who, of course, must be protected!

The film merely attempts a hat-tip to celebrating womanhood. But, before you begin taking it seriously, you are reminded of the Sunny Leone number, ‘Trippy Trippy’ — a curious case of avenging one woman’s honour while training the lens on another’s body.

And yes, the next time the dupatta is used as a lajja vastra, a symbol of pride when worn, and shame when removed, I suggest we all take a deep breath, sort through our collection of dupattas, and calm down.

Luckily, we are not part of the world Bhoomi is set in.

*****

The Bhoomi review is a Silverscreen original article. It was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the movie. Silverscreen.in and its writers do not have any commercial relationship with movies that are reviewed on the site.

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