Synopsis – A revenge drama that centers on the relationship between a father and daughter.
My Take – Considering the type of films released this year, it seems like rape-revenge drama is turning into a genre of its own. After Kaabil starring Hrithik Roshan, Maatr starring Raveena Tandon and Mom starring Sridevi, here we get to see another powerful actor in his moment to shine by exacting vengeance on the perpetrators of his daughter. Post the shocking Nirbhaya gang rape in 2012, a major section of the society has begun to see the problems faced by women more seriously and in a new light. It has also led to Bollywood making multiple films on this subject. Rape is a subject which needs to be dealt with carefully. The story must be hard hitting for the message to reach all audiences but it must do so with empathy and sensitivity that should make our blood boil and heart ache without resorting to melodrama. The film with its hard hitting subject, that also marks the return of Sanjay Dutt post his incarceration under firearms offences four years ago, seemed like a perfect platform for him to perform, however, despite having its heart in the right place, the film gets weighed down under its burdens of clichés and melodrama. Agreed, you need drama to make an impact but resorting to the same old bag of tricks that plays out in the most predictable and overwrought fashion, is just the wrong call. This are just one of the many things that director Omung Kumar (Mary Kom, Sarbjit) gets wrong in his third feature film, which seemed more like a collection of all B revenge dramas that we have ever seen. However, the only reason I would recommend watching this film, is for Sanjay Dutt, who despite all worldly pressures, still manages to carry his swag and charisma to this film too, basically everything one would expect from Bollywood’s original Robin Hood and superstar. Here, Dutt is glorious as the helpless father turned feisty, despite the film being a damp squib.
The story follows Arun Sachdeva (Sanjay Dutt), a shoemaker who runs a small shop down in Agra. As a single parent, he shares a loving relationship with his daughter Bhoomi (Aditi Rao Hydari), an educated, self-sufficient working girl who organizes weddings for the young brides of Agra. He cooks her dinner and gives her a head massage & she dyes his hair, makes breakfast and chides him on his drinking habits with his best friend Taj (Shekhar Suman). Bhoomi’s life, despite her stuttering problems seems like a bed of roses as, apart from her bustling business, her love marriage with a handsome doctor Neeraj (Sidhant Gupta) is also in the offing. Alas then, a spurned suitor, Vishal (Puru Chibber), is the worm in the bed of roses. What Vishal lacks in spine he makes up for with incessant whining, mostly to his older cousin, a dreaded politician Dhauli (Sharad Kelkar) and his womanizing accomplice Ghulam (Veer Aryan). Apparently bored of rapine in the ravine, Dhauli convinces Vishal (who doesn’t need much convincing) to abduct and have his miserable way with Bhoomi, an act made all the more contemptible when Dhauli and Ghulam join Vishal in his sordid deed. All of this, by the way, takes place the night before Bhoomi’s wedding. After the deed is done Bhoomi is sent home, with Dhauli reasoning that no bride-to-be will spoil her chance at marital bliss, or embarrass her father by reporting rape a day before her own wedding, well of course, he is wrong. After an infuriating court scene, Arun decides to take matters in his hands, when he realizes they will not get justice in the court of law. If you thought director Omung Kumar made a dud with Sarbjit, this one is a notch worse and he has no one to blame but himself. His tendency to overdo emotional manipulation is at an all-time high in this film, even though, he makes sure there is some style throughout – even murder scenes have flying dupattas and top shots. There are more issues in this film than there are good bits. For starters, some of the songs are totally unnecessary and unbelievably timed. A father is crying his heart out because he couldn’t protect his daughter, and the police, that are inconsiderate at first, suddenly seem to be helping, or even abetting, Arun in his self-righteous deed that is later described as a universal solution (for the issue) by the same character in the epilogue. The villains look intelligent at first but then lose control of their own sanity and do dumb things. They are epitomes of banality that make the whole drama look unnecessary and a waste of time. The film does highlight that minors can commit rape but not punished since he is not 18. It also shows a different kind of response towards the tragedy, and that is it. The biggest flaw lies in the script. It is convoluted and over-plotted, as a whole which eventually becomes an overwrought tale that hardly has anything novel to offer. What could have been a good comeback for Dutt is mostly marred by the filmmaker’s vision which seems to tuck in the ’90s. In the first hour, the screenplay moves at snail’s pace leaving you exasperated. It is only post-interval when the tempo picks up and events in the film start moving on. Three scenes however are very well executed – when Arun gets new shoes for Bhoomi, the courtroom scene where a broken Arun gives a hard hitting speech and when he informs about the punishment for rape in different countries of the world to one of the victims.
There’s a touching scene of the bride being told to keep the atrocity a secret from her to-be husband and you see a girl dressed up in wedding finery faced with a mortifying choice. Director Omung Kumar handles the sequence tastefully, with minimal dialogue and a montage of little events unfolding around a still-life bride. But what he earns there, director Kumar wastes in the police station and courtroom scenes that follow. For all the time screenwriter Raaj Shaandilyaa and Kumar spend in setting up a world that is a believable mix of stereotypes and new-age thinking, post the crime the narrative takes on the convenience of revenge drama tropes – disinterested and insensitive cops, judgmental neighbors, a one-sided court case, societal shaming, a spineless fiancé. Most of the situations that make for the story are episodic and the over-arching story is unengaging & the entire attempt to appeal to emotion seems hollow. This is despite being a topic that concerns and affects our day-to-day lives. It doesn’t help that each of the situations is dragged on for a bit too long, especially the drunken scenes in the first few minutes. Unfortunately, the big reveal too of the film is not as impactful as it wants to be. Like the July release Mom and numerous other films of its kind, the film cannot even dream of allowing the victim with the opportunity to deal with the rape on her own terms or suggest that she can start a new life. Among the better scenes is a father-daughter conversation in which Bhoomi appears to be overcoming her sanctioned victim status, but since revenge is on the menu, it is duly served soon after. The film also tries to load on the messages, which are announced by the characters like headlines on a news channel: Respect women, gender discrimination and gender equality, prevalence of prejudices and double standards and yet there’s room in here for a gratuitous item number featuring Sunny Leone, performing some strange tribal choreography. Sachin-Jigar‘s music is weak and has no scope. ‘Will You Marry Me’, played during opening credits, is the only one that works. ‘Jai Mata Di’ played in the climax enhances impact. The Sunny Leone item song ‘Trippy Trippy’ looks terrible and is badly placed, however, Ismail Darbar’s background score is strong. However, what makes this film stand out though is excellent acting. Sanjay Dutt owns this film, with every scene he’s in. Whether he’s getting sloshed with his best friend and trying to unsuccessfully hide it from his daughter, or denouncing the hypocrisies of Indian society in a local court, or just beating up the baddies, it is good to see Dutt on-screen again. He looks convincing as a helpless father and also powerful when he takes revenge in the final scenes. The way his eyes do all the talking in the police station scene is seen to be believed. Aditi Rao Hydari is good in her part and her portrayal of a rape survivor is very impactful. You genuinely feel for her in the film. She shines in the scene where struggling with her secret on the wedding night and the one in which she asks her spineless fiancée to erase her phone number from her wall. Sharad Kelkar is excellent, while Sidhant Gupta is alright. Shekhar Suman is wasted. On the whole, ‘Bhoomi’ is a cringe worthy drama with a power packed Sanjay Dutt performance.
Directed – Omung Kumar
Rated – R
Run Time – 136 minutes