Jattu Engineer movie review: Take a bow, Saint Dr Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singhji Insaan
(Star rating: * — because there is just one star, Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh Insaan)
Make absolutely no mistake about this: Saint Dr Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singhji Insaan is a filmmaker at the very peak of his immense powers. It is one thing to even conceive of a project as ambitious as Jattu Engineer; but to pull it off with the aplomb that he has, is indication of a director who has transcended rare cinematic heights.
He has invoked all the masters, the many auteurs who have inspired him to become the man that he is today. From Kurosawa to Ray, from Scorcese to Coppola, from Jean-Luc Godard to Bergman, he has paid homage to everyone. And such is the quality of filmmaking, that they would be honoured by his efforts. And welcome him to the pantheon with open hands.
As always, calling him a director is doing disservice to the 42 other roles that he performs on the sets of every movie. Including one that simply says “prop maker”. Yes, his humility is as touching as his smile. Despite being the richly deserving recipient of a Dadasaheb Phalke Award, he makes all the props used for the film with his own masculine hands. And when you think about how the film is an elaborate ego-massaging prop unto itself, you will begin to comprehend the levels at which Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singhji Insaan works.
Jattu Engineer is set in small-town India, the kind that’s instantly recognisable from the wafting aroma of cowdung in the air. The rustic nature of this village is brought out with unbearable sensitivity. It’s something no man could do, only Insaan could. And Insaan does. In the hands of a lesser person, this is where it would end. But with Insaan, this is where it begins. He suffuses the film with instantly recognisable characters. Who among us hasn’t shared a table with a man who talks in donkey-like brays? Or with that typical small-town character who always — every single time — mixes up the front and back side of an animal? Insaan brings his own personal sensibilities to every frame.
Just like any other small town in India, this too is full of oppressed villagers brutalised by an evil and self-serving administration. By doing this, Insaan proves that it’s not just the Western masters he emulates; he also doffs his well-stuffed hat at legendary cinema from India like Sholay and Lagaan. The film is a tumultuous saga, a triumph of good over evil, of savage ruthless men, who are taught the righteous path by the pure hearts of children.
The telling of the tale is tastefully — and rightfully — old-fashioned. Insaan doesn’t discriminate among people when he makes a film. His movies can be enjoyed by everybody. Even those who laugh only at fart jokes. No, make that especially those who laugh at fart jokes. He also reserves special mockery for people who mix up their English words. There is one man in particular who keeps saying “pregnant” every time he wants to say “present”. And villagers who have just thrashed a girl for walking with a boy know exactly how pregnant is different from present. The complexity of the humour touches all the finer nuances of gratification.
But it is as much a treatise on the power of ideas as it is on the manifestation of their eventual outcomes. It is clearly something Insaan has kept bottled up within him for years now, and few among us will be able to view the cathartic bloodletting that follows with dry eyes. In a devastating takedown of people who question the value of bringing fruits to a fistfight, there is one scene where Insaan beats up a ‘Pehelwan’ using only tomatoes and bananas. Take that, naysayers! That’s clearly the last we’ll be hearing of you and your ilk!
But, as with every revenge saga, there needs to be punishment to cancel out the crime. Class war begets more class war, and inequality has been simmering gently in this town, like prime, slow-cooked flavoured meat. When the oppression gets too unbearable, there is a Rocky-like training montage involving inspiring upbeat music and slow-motion shots of Insaan walking. The film’s complexity lies in its specificity. At the end of this, we are witness to some more slow-motion shots of Insaan walking, this time with a natty chorus and jingle, while the corpses of his enemies lie prone. It can only be the crystallisation of a person’s life experiences and tribulations. Scorcese would have definitely been proud.
There are also more subtle nods towards filmmaking conventions, that prove Insaan is not only an accomplished actor, director and prop maker, but also a keen student of the art. For instance, the villains, those with evil in their hearts, are shown to be with black faces. As they are brainwashed by Insaan, the black leaves their faces. They start looking more — shockingly enough — human. Then, in a clear sign that the film, despite its lofty accomplishments, remains rooted in quotidian realities of small-town India, these faces turn whiter as their hearts get purer.
After all, isn’t a white face the only true sign of a blemish-free character?
Take a bow, Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singhji Insaan. You have yet again created a cinematic equivalent of something that is so real, it well might be the very air around us.