Director: Omung Kumar
Cast: Aditi Rao Hydari, Sanjay Dutt, Sharad Kelkar, Sidhant Gupta
There’s something to be said about the bloodthirsty, primal and establishment-distrusting mood of a country when its premiere film industry spawns four mainstream rape-and-revenge dramas in the same year. Filmmakers have begun to feed off the frenzied rage of an unfortunate era by designing morbid wish fulfillment fantasies parading as heroic vigilante socio-thrillers. If it was a visually challenged husband avenging his dead wife in Kaabil, and a wily mother avenging her assaulted teenaged daughter in Mom and Maatr, it’s a fed-up father (Sanjay Dutt, as Arun) exacting the ultimate Bollywood form of choppy Karan-Arjun-ish vengeance on his daughter’s (Aditi Rao Hydari) retro-evil perpetrators in Omung Kumar’s Bhoomi.
This film is the only one with the added advantage of its environment – a semi-urban setting like Agra, as compared to the surreal and lawless metropolitan madness in the others. In all three, the cops are of course apathetic fools, the villains are sordid caricatures who put 1970s baddies to shame, and the justice system is exaggeratedly blindfolded. But never has this heinous crime felt so commercialized and shamelessly exploited the way it has been in Bhoomi.
I’d go as far to call this the worst, most irresponsible, perverse, cheap, loud, tone-deaf, brutally inconsiderate, overabundant and unrepentant Indian film of the year so far
This movie is so consistently self-defeating in its treatment of sexual and emotional violence that you wonder if its makers are any different from the characters we are supposed to hate. It goes too far time and again to force upon us the vileness of the diseased male gaze.
I’d go as far to call this the worst, most irresponsible, perverse, cheap, loud, tone-deaf, brutally inconsiderate, overabundant and unrepentant Indian film of the year so far. And that’s saying a lot in a year that has seen the likes of Half Girlfriend, Begum Jaan and Raabta. In fact, the director’s first two films – the mediocre Mary Kom and the utterly manipulative Sarbjit – seem like minor masterpieces in comparison.
And even if he decides to hunt me down for this review, he won’t have much to destroy: my eardrums have already been shattered by Ismail Darbar’s delusional background score, my eyes blinded by the relentless distastefulness of the craft at hand, and my heart shocked by the cash-grabbing insensitiveness of this monstrosity’s oblivious participants.
For instance, let’s examine the sensationalized anatomy of the rape sequence and its aftermath. Bhoomi rejects an emasculated suitor named Vishal on the eve of her wedding to a Prince Charming stereotype. Vishal obviously complains to his gunda brothers, Neeraj and Dhauli – who are introduced as demonic idiots who proudly play “hide and cheekh (scream)” with random women. They teach Bhoomi a lesson by abducting her one night to an empty cinema hall broadcasting a porno. The scenes from the screen are matched with Bhoomi’s pained expressions as the three morons assault her by taking turns.
After her wedding is shelved, and the cops are established as glorified middle-Indian parents who’d rather watch a cricket match and spout cricket metaphors than register a troubled father’s complaint, Bhoomi is again abducted – this time, to be silenced forever. She is thrown off a bridge into a muddy river. The very next shot, post-interval, showcases the muddy skin of Sunny Leone slithering vulgarly to an item song called “Saiya Tera Trippy” in a club while the three drunken villains admire her. Cut to: Bhoomi’s muddy, limp body awakening on the riverbank.
Not to mention the courtroom scenes – where a female lawyer defends the rapists by attacking Bhoomi’s character with questions like “tell me how they touched you? Are you a virgin?” and Dhauli (Sharad Kelkar; should be arrested for looking the way he does) signs off by taunting a seething Arun with, “I’m not only all around your Bhoomi, but inside her too”. Take some time to digest that.
The second half is filled with rushed, loud montages of Arun torturing and murdering them one by one, while his daughter looks on with muted pride. Poor Sanjay Dutt, however, looks more like he is revolting against this film every time he raises his hand. He is better than this. Most humans are better than this. There is also Shekhar Suman, his brother, who is perpetually drunk and Team Bhoomi until he dies the most harebrained death ever. I can’t say I blame him.
Who is to tell Omung Kumar that possessing a “dramatic” license doesn’t mean he needs to break into a car ten pegs down, break the speeding limit, get into a reckless highway chase, hit a divider, climb a footpath, drive into the ocean, stab some fish, molest a shark and then expect this license to remain valid because Priyanka Chopra wore boxing gloves in his debut film. Who is to confiscate his license to (over)kill? And why am I still writing about this film?