Jal is set in the bleak, barren and desolated deserts of the Rann of Kutch. It narrates the story of Bakka, a water diviner who is gifted with a special ability to find water in the desert. The story takes you through Bakka’s journey of helping a female Russian activist to generate fresh water and hence prevent flamingos from dying and eventually getting extinct. At the backdrop is the little community in Bakka’s village that faces water scarcity and it is Bakka to whom the entire village looks upon as a saviour. The film also walks you through inter-village rivalry where the war is over water!
Apart from narrating the issue of water scarcity with bits of drama, Jal has perhaps showcased the Rann of Kutch like never before: the exhilarating landscape, the sublime yet poetic beauty and the squalid state of the local community. In fact, the sheer perfection with which the director, Girish Malik has given justice to each frame, it is difficult to believe that it is his directorial debut.
The movie, on the whole, did belong to Purab Kohli i.e. his character Bakka. Jal was perhaps the strongest role that he’s ever portrayed in his acting career. At one point in time, Bakka is the village’s elected saviour who like a magician conjuring rabbits, taps the earth with his copper rods to fetch fresh water. And on the other, he is shown as a greedy traitor and later a doomed victim who perhaps would have found a perfect place in Shakespeare’s Hamlet.
Purab Kohli has played each facet of the character with sheer perfection and brilliance. It will sure leave you thinking why isn’t he known as a popular and loved actor!
The narrative by Girish Malik has been tapestried with the rich visuals of the desert, the flamingo sanctuary and the barren yet beautiful dessert. At the same time the narrative looks emotive and tempestuous with spectacular performances, the rich cinematography and enigmatic background score.
The only minus point for me was that “Jal” is many things at the same time. The narrative moves in mysterious ways coiling and snaking through circumstances that appear more destined than designed, which is beautiful. The tale unfolds in a multiplicity of enigmatic dimensions, many of them ironical. However, there are parts where love story and struggle have been stretched a little too far! That may have been done to make the plot entertain the typical Indian audience.
“Jal” leaves you with a number of questions about a social strata where water is more precious than gold. At the same time, it is a satire that slaps the capitalists. Jal elegantly narrates the absurdity and paradox of our very own Indian society where people care more about water scarcity for migratory birds than for backward human communities. Perhaps, a sad but true story of humanity’s most deprived and financially challenged part of the civilization.