Cast: Jayam Ravi, Nidhhi Agerwal, Ronit Roy
Bhoomi is Jayam Ravi’s 25th film, and it makes you think he is the nicest man in Kollywood. He just can’t seem to say no to a script! On the one hand, you see why he took on this project. The writer-director, Lakshman, has given him two hits: Romeo Juliet and Bogan. But on the other hand, you have to wonder if that’s enough. This is a painfully literal film. Jayam Ravi’s character, here, is an agriculturist: his name, therefore, is Bhoominathan. Had Lakshman made Soorarai Pottru, he’d have named the Suriya character… Akasanathan. You can keep extending this concept unto infinity. You can make a movie about the plight of the man with the cart who irons your clothes. He’s down in the dumps because evil corporate dry cleaners have taken away all his business — or at least, the work-from-home scenario has made shirts and trousers redundant. The hero swoops in to save the day. His name? Istrinathan.
These are very tragic, very real issues, and it feels terrible when they are transformed into an inept film that plays like a comedy. Bhoominathan works for NASA. He comes back to his village and discovers that farmers are in dire straits because all the water is being used up by Evil Corporates™. Meanwhile, he finds the time to pluck a strand of hair from Shakti (Nidhhi Agerwal), because they are in love. Apparently, he can analyse the DNA and find out exactly what she was feeling when that strand of hair was being plucked. I tell you, even NASA cannot think up these things.
Watching Shakti, I felt something warm in the cockles of my heart. After ages, we get a bona fide loosu ponnu – or given this film’s themes, maybe we should say Agmark loosu ponnu. Ever since Hansika Motwani disappeared, these women have been in scarce supply. We need replacements, dammit, and damn it if Nidhhi Agerwal doesn’t try her damnedest. When Bhoominathan transforms from NASA scientist to local farmer, Shakti changes from figure-hugging minis to a dhavani. One part of me wanted to make a “decoding video”, right there and then.
Amidst the mass-intro Tamil Pride™ song and the Random Duet™, we get Thambi Ramaiah as a debt-ridden farmer. A film that really wanted to explore these issues would have treated this character with dignity, made him more than just a representative of the farmer population. Instead, he is used as a human version of Wiki, to fill Bhoominathan up with the facts and figures that he will need. Why struggle to make such a bad movie? Why not simply take the Swades screenplay and masala-fy it? And why are we so obsessed with numbers? You know how many litres per day a car-manufacturing plant uses? Bhoomi tells you: three crore litres. Did you know the farmer population in Bhoominathan’s village has shrunk from 7,498 to 2,450 in 10 years? Bhoomi tells you. Someone should tell these filmmakers that screenwriting is not a data dump.
Bhoominathan’s NASA background is treated so laughably, it would rightfully be a comedy track featuring Goundamani and Senthil. He ends up owing them twenty million dollars. Or something. Meanwhile, he goes to the Mudumalai forest in search of seeds. Or something. Eventually, the background erupts with chants of Vande Mataram. It’s a great idea, with echoes of the Swadeshi movement, to say farmers should be self-dependent. But if intentions were enough, every movie would be a masterpiece.
Ronit Roy plays the villain, and his dubbing artist plays the second villain. Every line is uttered in an accent that makes you imagine Amitabh Bachchan reciting the Thirukkural. But he does get the film’s best line, when one of his henchmen holds a gun over Bhoominathan’s head: If this bullet enters your brain, your life will be over in one second. As opposed to those other bullets that allow the victim to live for minutes or hours or maybe even days? I ended the film thinking about a plot where hapless moviegoers are saved by a hero who decides to change the Kollywood ecosystem that reduces serious subjects to unintentional comedies. We can call him Dramanathan.