Bakrid Movie Review: A Bumpy Man-Camel Relationship Drama

We’re conditioned to crying our hearts out for pet dogs, cats and even elephants but camels remain fairly new in this genre and this only makes things trickier

Language: Tamil

Cast: Vikranth, Vasundhara Kashyap, Dinesh Prabhakar

Director: Jagadeesan Subu

Bakrid opens with Ratnam (Vikranth) waiting to meet with a bank manager to apply for an agricultural loan. After seven years of court and cases, Ratnam has finally managed to regain possession of his ancestral property from his brother. The film suggests that it’s only natural for anyone in Ratnam’s shoes to just sell the land and start afresh. In fact, that’s what Ratnam’s brother tries to do with his share. But Ratnam chooses to hold on to the land with plans of bringing back its lost green glory, the kind it had witnessed during the time of his father. Ratnam knows that farming is more than just any other profession. He understands its noble nature and the importance it plays in feeding hundreds of people.

So you understand his quandary when he brings home a pet camel. What do you feed an animal that has been moved far away from its original habitat? Ratnam tries, first with what he gives his cattle. He then alternates with what he feeds humans. Though it offers relief, he fails to arrive at a permanent solution. He names the camel Sara after his father (Sarangan) and starts calling it his son, but how can a farmer let a family member go hungry? A vet is consulted and he orders Ratnam to take Sara back to the deserts of Rajasthan, to its real home and what follows is a bumpy ride where they battle Gau Rakshaks, petty criminals and the police to get there.

Which makes it easy to mistake Bakrid for a pleasing human-animal relationship drama. Don’t get me wrong, it certainly plays out like one but it’s also a commentary on food and how differently people look at it. In one of the earlier scenes, we find Ratnam struggling to negotiate with his daughter who cannot do without a packet of Lays. Ratnam offers groundnut candy instead but she’s unwilling to budge. He gives in, buys her a packet only to trick her to give it up, distracting her with soap bubbles. The reverse is what’s happening when Ratnam’s brother who sends his son to buy him vadas, because he visibly cannot finish his meal without it.

This contrast is extended to include religion as well. It is a Muslim man who offers Ratnam a mortgage-free loan after learning of his noble intentions to pursue farming. But on Ratnam’s journey to take Sara back home, they’re attacked by Gau Rakshaks who feel the need to rescue the camel after suspecting Ratnam of having stolen it.

How much you feel for Bakrid is based on how much you’re willing to buy Ratnam and his family’s love for the camel. We’re conditioned to crying our hearts out for pet dogs, cats and even elephants but camels remain fairly new in this genre and this only makes things trickier. Because it’s not easy to make camels look cute or to get it do human-like things like umpiring a cricket match or to save a kid from drowning. But of course, the film tries. In one of the sub-plots, we get the camel saving a group of army men who get stranded along the way. But the way this information is given to us is not just laughable, it’s also manipulative.

The film also tries hard to get us to connect to Sara, firstly through the eyes of Ratnam’s young daughter. We then witness the hardship Ratnam goes through to protect Sara through the journey. Yet these moments don’t always translate to a connection. It also doesn’t help that Ratnam is accompanied in this journey by two actors who struggle to communicate their own conflicts. Even the obstacles along the way have a predictable pattern in the way it plays out.

The sub-plot involving Ratnam’s brother selling his piece of land is abandoned midway and we also don’t understand why Ratnam would take such an elaborate and expensive risk just when he’s about to finally come up in life. Despite the noble intentions of the film and its message of compassion, it deserved better filmmaking and better performances all around to make it the moving drama it ought to be.

"Vishal Menon : Vishal dropped out of law school to focus on his fondness for film, particularly mainstream Indian cinema. He is a film critic, previously with The Hindu after a stint at Deccan Chronicle and Reuters News. If you thought the book was better than the movie, don’t tell Vishal.."
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