Director: Devashish Makhija
Cast: Manoj Bajpayee, Mohd. Zeeshan Ayyub, Smita Tambe, Tannishtha Chatterjee, Rajshri Deshpande, Megha Mathur
Rating: 4 stars
Coming through the cinematic vision of Devashish Makhija, the creative genius that helmed Ajji and Bhonsle, the latter with leading hero Manoj Bajpayee, Joram sees the two powerhouses team up once again, for what promises to be a nail-biting survival drama.
Jharkhand-based Dasru Kerketta (Bajpayee) and his wife Vaano (Tannishtha Chatterjee in a delightful cameo) are merely fighting for their existence in the bustling metropolis of Mumbai. The two are nursing their three-month old daughter Joram and work as daily wagers at a construction site in the city. When the past from their native origins come to haunt them resulting in Vaano’s murder, Dasru’s retaliation sees the establishment trying to close in on him. Tying his little daughter to his chest, the man is now on the run from the clutches of a system that is constantly looking to crush him. Ironically, he escapes the city to seek refuge in his hometown, which he had also ran away from, a few years ago. Even as Dasru tries seeking comfort in the familiar, his past isn’t willing to embrace him easily. The disassociation felt between Dasru and his hometown is what forms the crux of this film.
Makhija’s script makes a brave attempt at blurring the lines between what we conveniently call as privileged versus the marginalised. Joram attempts at capsizing the notion of othering a section of our society that does not have access to basic needs. It makes us question our entitlement and what exactly is the idea of progress in a country that is riddled by capitalism. More importantly, it looks at how survival is constantly tilting its scales between two extremes.
Piyush Puty’s stunning cinematography, which involves guerilla techniques, captures the tension, intrigue and desperation that Dasru feels. It is so rare to find a visually appealing film that leaves you with disturbing yet engaging imagery. From the concrete confines of Mumbai to the jungles that surround Dasru’s village, Puty’s frames weave magic. Never have I seen themes of displacement and existential crisis being explored so beautifully, on-screen.
Another outstanding attribute of the film is its background score. Makhija’s extensive travels and research on the lives of those who live in and around the jungles of Jharkhand reflect in the arrangement by Mangesh Dhakde. As the movie begins, we see a young Vaano and Dasru hum a local tribal tune that clearly carries influences from lives lived in parts of Jharkhand, West Bengal and Odisha.
Except for the worrying length of the film, which can be of immense concern, Joram largely benefits from a range of performances on display. While Bajpayee excels as Dasru, he is ably supported by Mohd. Zeeshan Ayyub as Senior Inspector Ratnakar Bagul, who chases Dasru but is empathic towards his plight. Then there is the excellent Smita Tambe as Phulo Karma, the legislator who will stop at nothing before Dasru is laid to rest. The actress speaks volumes through her eyes about the resentment and the trauma she holds. Both actors match their more seasoned co-star’s wavelength with effective portrayals. Rajshri Deshpande plays Ratnakar’s wife Mukta in another delightful cameo.
Joram doesn’t stand to entertain you but to leave you thinking and contemplating for weeks and months. Having enjoyed extensive premieres across the globe, the film is expected to release in cinemas on December 8, 2023.