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‘Joram’ Review: Manoj Bajpayee Leads a Gripping, Effective Social Message

'Joram', starring Manoj Bajpayee, hit theatres on 8 December.

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‘Joram’ Review: Manoj Bajpayee Leads a Gripping, Effective Social Message

A desperate attempt to survive and protect comes face-to-face with a festering need for revenge in Devashish Makhija’s Joram. Dasru (Manoj Bajpayee) and his wife move from Jharkhand to Mumbai – this is Dasru’s attempt to leave behind a life of violence. This attempt feels successful, even as they’re surrounded with a suffocating concrete jungle…until Dasru runs into a tribal leader Phulo Karma. 

'Joram', starring Manoj Bajpayee, hit theatres on 8 December.

Manoj Bajpayee in a still from Joram.

(Photo Courtesy: YouTube)

While Dasru’s motivation is escape, Karma’s is revenge for the death of a family member. Both their motivations, on paper, feel justified especially considering that both their lives have been affected by systemic oppression. The only difference is that Karma ends up weaponising the same system with the target locked firmly on Dasru. 

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Joram has a certain rushed, amateurish quality to it but it all feels designed that way; it’s difficult to separate the crew behind-the-camera from the characters on screen. It is common for us to view a story through the protagonist’s lens but here it feels as if the camera is somehow ‘attached’ to our subject. It is especially evident in how haphazard a chase sequence in a train feels.

This ‘rush’ is coming not from a flaw in filmmaking but from the very fact that Dasru is always on the run. 

'Joram', starring Manoj Bajpayee, hit theatres on 8 December.

A still from Joram.

(Photo Courtesy: YouTube)

Gaon chhodke nahi bhaage hai, bandhuk chhodke bhaage rahe hum,” (I didn’t run away from my village, I ran away from the gun) Dasru laments and it is, once again, evident that we’re watching a Devashish Makhija film. Like with his short film Cycle (though varying in format), empathy forms a crucial part of this film – empathy for those disenfranchised by the system and often forced to enter a cycle of violence from where there is rarely an avenue for escape.

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If Dasru had the choice, the freedom, and the privilege, he probably wouldn’t be ‘on the run’ (so to say). And yet, we find him running with his infant daughter strapped to his chest, grappling not only with the loss of his family but also of his dreams and his land.

'Joram', starring Manoj Bajpayee, hit theatres on 8 December.

Manoj Bajpayee in a still from Joram.

(Photo Courtesy: YouTube)

This feeling of dread is captured brilliantly by the director but also by lead actor Manoj Bajpayee. With little to say in the film, most of the heavy lifting is done by his expressive eyes – there is fear, confusion, dejection all etched on his face. 

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Another compelling character is that of the cop Ratnakar (Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub) who is ordered around by the top brass to chase after Dasru. But Ratnakar is more empathetic than one would assume – as he is faced with the reality of the setting he is in, he begins to question the orders he gets. He even begins to question the very fabric of society that gives him his ‘power’, however minimal that might be. Makhija astutely poses the question – what separates violence for one from what is ‘justice’ to another? 

'Joram', starring Manoj Bajpayee, hit theatres on 8 December.

Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub in a still from Joram.

(Photo Courtesy: YouTube)

And in the backdrop there is the timeless battle between the modern and the traditional. Right from the contrast between Dasru’s life in Jharkhand and Mumbai to the tribals grappling with the loss of their land to ‘development’. Makhija’s film is not one to make any moral judgment; there really is no actual moral superiority that a character wields over another. 

Even as Karma, whose actions are fueled by rage and revenge, turns against her own people, you are forced to question why. Smita Tambe is formidable as Karma; every little change in her demeanor feels well-thought-out. 

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Joram is rooted so firmly in realism that the helplessness the characters feel is reflected to the viewer. Some of the imagery feels unnecessary – for instance, Dasru resting in front of the words from the Constitution.

'Joram', starring Manoj Bajpayee, hit theatres on 8 December.

Smita Tambe in a still from Joram.

(Photo Courtesy: YouTube)

There is enough to think about even in the way the film is named. ‘Joram’, not after any of the key players but after the infant strapped to Dasru. Perhaps it signifies that everyone in Joram has about as much agency and voice in the story as she does or perhaps we are meant to imagine a more hopeful world for the next generation.

One where the voices of the disenfranchised don’t just become noise in a rapidly disintegrating social fabric.

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Topics:  Manoj Bajpayee   Joram 

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