One World Films, Clapstem Productions and NFDC’s Jal (UA) is the story of a water diviner who lives in a village in the dry and barren region of Rann of Kutch.
Bakka (Purab H. Kohli) lives in a village in the Rann of Kutch. The village has no well and is dry and arid. Bakka, who is in love with Kesar (Kirti Kulhari), a girl from the neighbouring village, is a water diviner but is somehow unsuccessful in locating water reserves in his own village. Richard (Gary Richardson) and Kim (Saidah Jules) are foreigners who’ve come to the Rann of Kutch to study about the migratory flamingoes. To Kim’s horror, she sees that a number of flamingoes have died in the region due to salt water. With a view to saving the birds in future, Kim and Richard call for a huge drilling machine to drill the arid land to get potable water. When they are unable to locate water reserves, they use Bakka’s services and meet with great success. Bakka, who is given a job by the government, gets married to Kesar.
Bakka then asks Richard to lend him the machine for two days so that he can dig the water reserves in his village and thereby ensure that the village has a permanent well. But the selfish Richard leaves the Rann of Kutch without caring for Bakka’s pleas. It is then that the villagers decide to steal the huge drilling machine and take it to their village to drill the land earmarked by Bakka, the water diviner. The villagers even contribute towards the diesel charges to run the machine by giving their ornaments.
As bad luck would have it, the machine breaks down before a water reserve can be located. As if that weren’t bad enough, Bakka’s friend, Rakla (Ravi Gossain), is murdered. The villagers accuse Bakka of killing Rakla and stealing the ornaments they had collected to contribute towards diesel charges of the drilling machine. Bakka is banished from the village. With nowhere to go, he and wife Kesar, who is now pregnant, go to Kesar’s village.
What happens thereafter? Do the inhabitants of Kesar’s village give Bakka refuge or do they throw him out? Who had killed Rakla? Where have the expensive ornaments of the villagers gone? Does Kesar deliver her child in her father’s village or her husband’s village? What happens to Bakka?
Rakesh Mishra’s story is unusual and quite interesting. Girish Malik and Rakesh Mishra have woven a screenplay which keeps the audience’s interest alive. The drama takes a while to pick up but once it does, the interest level doesn’t dip. In fact, it wouldn’t be wrong to say that the second half is more interesting than the first. Having said that, it must be added that for the average moviegoer, boredom would creep in after a point of time because the entire film has been shot on the open dry and arid land. In other words, people used to the usual entertainment offered by masala films will find the drama dry and boring after a point of time – and thanks in no small measure to the tediousness which creeps in due to the arid locations. By its very nature, the film has very limited and sectional appeal. A glaring defect in the screenplay is Bakka’s covering up of Rakla’s murder. Had he taken the villagers into confidence right when the murder took place, things probably may not have gone out of hand as they do later. Frankly, there seems to be no justification for Bakka to hide the news of Rakla’s murder because it isn’t as if the villagers wouldn’t notice his absence; since there are hardly any people in the village, it seems rather strange for Bakka to have assumed that the murder or, rather, Rakla’s absence, would go unnoticed by the vilagers. Bakka’s silence looks like a convenient link in the drama chain. For, he was only postponing trouble, not avoiding it. Rather, his coming clean at the start itself may have actually helped him. Dialogues, penned by Rakesh Mishra, with additional dialogues by Girish Malik and Jagdeep Singh Sidhu, are very real.
Purab H. Kohli gets into the skin of Bakka’s character and plays it very naturally. His look and entire demeanour add to his character. Tannishtha Chatterjee performs splendidly as Kajri. Kirti Kulhari is very good in the role of Kesar. Saidah Jules has her moments as Kim. Yashpal Sharma plays to the gallery and evokes laughter at places, as Ram Khiladi. Mukul Dev shines in the role of Puniya. But he speaks his dialogues in a Punjabi accent instead of Kutchi. Rahul Singh makes his presence felt as Kisna Prasad. Ravi Gossain leaves a mark in the role of Rakla. Gary Richardson is good as Richard. Habib Azmi (as Velabhai), Vicky Ahuja (as Manga), Chandrabhan Singh (as Parnami), Savi Sidhu (as Mukhiya), Raju Barot (as Kheemabhai), Ravi Khanvilkar (as Sukhia), Siddharth Ray (as Mohanbhai), Hansmukh Bhavsar (as Ganibhai), Rohit Pathak (as Saab Ram), Komal Sharma (as Lajo), Kusum Ahir (as Dhankibai), Nayan Rana (as Ranabhai) and Elena Kazan (as Rose) provide excellent support.
Girish Malik’s direction is very good. He has been able to bring out the trials and tribulations of the hapless villagers on to the screen beautifully. But it is also a fact that he has made a film which holds appeal for a very thin minority of the audience. Sonu Nigam and Bickram Ghosh’s music and background score are wonderful and complement the drama effectively. Sunita Radia’s photography is splendid. Parvez Khan’s action scenes are good. Dipankar Mondal’s sets are realistic. Protim Khaound’s editing is sharp.
On the whole, Jal quenches one’s thirst for good and meaningful cinema but its commercial prospects are very slim.