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'Joram' movie review: The India you don’t know at all

Updated on: 09 December,2023 06:58 AM IST  |  Mumbai
Mohar Basu |

Dasru aka Bala (Manoj Bajpayee) embarks on a journey from the quaint landscapes of a Jharkhand village to the bustling streets of Mumbai, driven by the illusion of a brighter existence

'Joram' movie review: The India you don’t know at all


Movie: Joram
U/A: Drama, thriller
Dir: Devashish Makhija
Cast: Manoj Bajpayee, Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub, Smita Tambe
Rating: 4/5

While watching Joram, I was reminded of Hansal Mehta’s Citylights. It released in 2014, and that was perhaps the last time someone showed us the fractured soul of Mumbai. Sprawling in its expanse, the city holds a galaxy within itself. But where do the broken stars go? What happens to those who have been pummelled for not being able to match its undying spirit?

Ten years on, Joram attempts a story about the brutality of the big city’s existence. It is a visual manifestation of what Suketu Mehta wrote in his book Maximum City: Bombay Lost and Found—“A city like Bombay is full of restless people. Those who have come here have not been at ease somewhere else. And unlike others who may have been equally uncomfortable wherever they came from, these people got up and moved. As I have discovered, having once moved, it is difficult to stop moving.” 

This could well be the logline of Joram, which is a taut thriller about a man on the run with his infant daughter, escaping the clutches of cops. Dasru aka Bala (Manoj Bajpayee) embarks on a journey from the quaint landscapes of a Jharkhand village to the bustling streets of Mumbai, driven by the illusion of a brighter existence. Little does he fathom that this quest for a better life would plunge him into a maelstrom of chaos. A savage twist of fate propels him into a frenzied face-off with the law, casting him into the shadows of fugitive existence.

Helmed by Devashish Makhija, Joram is an expose masquerading as an edge-of-the-seat thriller. It does move at a breakneck speed and has all the commercial embellishments of the genre. But the director is trying to convey so much more to us. The movie puts the spotlight on the catastrophic consequences of rural-urban migrations. It artfully unravels the sinister narrative of a ravenous regime that seduces individuals with promises of comfort and employment, only to later cannibalise their livelihoods and revel in their torment.

Makhija steadfastly keeps the stark realities of the intersecting universes of tribals, law enforcement, insurgents, and politicians in sharp focus, where exploitation, coercion, and ruthlessness reign supreme. The director’s lens captures not just the physical displacement but also the emotional and existential toll exacted by the false allure of progress. His portrayal is unwavering and devoid of judgment as he underscores the pervasive violence. Yet, he doesn’t conceal his own morality and value system. Makhija makes his stance implicitly clear as he distinctly aligns himself with the plight of the innocent and underprivileged tribal inhabitants, transformed into political pawns, ensnared in the cut-throat pursuit of greed by the State, and targeted by corporate interests.

The film is creating a portrait of a world where promises are broken, and the powerful thrive on the suffering of the vulnerable. Its haunting visuals and dialogues resonate long after the credits roll, leaving the audience shaken up by the harsh realities of a society that preys on dreams and devours hope. Makhija is in top form! And then, shouldering his vast vision with aplomb is Bajpayee, unflinchingly honest, pitch perfect, carrying the wrath of many generations within his soul, with an unfailing will to survive. 

Matching his prowess is Mohd Zeeshan Ayyub, harbouring angst, on the brink of eruption, only to have his eyes opened to the harsh realities of the marginalised. Ayyub and Bajpayee play these parts with delicious eagerness. It is hard to tell who is better between the two, just as hard as they make it for us to root for one. Who is right? Who is wrong? Is he a Naxalite? Is he an evil cop? Well, you get to decide that and it says more about you than the characters. I guess, the takeaway ought to be—good and evil, a coin’s toss in the mix of perspectives—heads for virtue, tails for villainy, but the metal remains the same.


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