Bhoomi movie review: Jayam Ravi's film is a potpourri of ill-researched ideas punctuated with loud screams
Bhoomi doesn’t give you a moment to breathe or even feel what just hit you.
castJayam Ravi, Nidhhi Agerwal, Swathi Sathish, Ronit Roy, Thambi Ramaiah
Watching a film in a movie theatre and writing a review from memory is a journey in self-doubt. “Is that really the dialogue?” or “should I quote or paraphrase?” are questions I catch myself asking very often. In an effort to be accurate, I end up leaving out a lot of things I either find remarkable or laughable because I can’t recall them entirely. Reviewing OTT films, on the other hand, is a boon — I can always rewind or just replay later to confirm.
How else would I be able to confidently tell you that the BGM for the villain in the latest Jayam Ravi film Bhoomi actually goes:
I’m here to see them all
My upper hand
I’m here to strike you all
The magic doesn’t end there. Bhoomi is the story of Bhoominathan, a NASA scientist, who has figured out a way to live on carbon dioxide and cultivate on Mars. After years of self-imposed isolation, he decides to return to his ancestral village for a holiday, only to see that his high-school sweetheart hasn’t grown up at all, but his farming community has. Naturally, he adores his high-school sweetheart as she is and decides to change the fate of his community.
First, he encounters the apathetic youth, then the disrespectful local government, then the creep of a collector, and then the ill-informed agriculture minister. Soon enough, an evil corporation from abroad shows up. And its owner personally flies down to a remote village in Tamilnadu to claim responsibility for the proceedings. He leaves without killing Bhoominathan and the rest is history.
No really. Bhoomi can go into Tamil cinema history as one of the most appallingly written films (trust me, I’ve watched a lot of them).
It’s an assault on the senses — a potpourri of ill-researched ideas, thrown together with an extra helping of salt and shouting. Naïve white reporters who’d believe anything: Check. Drive to a Tamil village to the background of a chest-thumping song: Check. Cute, scared cat of a heroine: Check. Farmer protest, police violence, self-immolation: Check.
Jayam Ravi, who plays Bhoominathan, makes an earnest effort to sell this preposterous film to us. (By the way, does he go looking for films like this or do they come looking for him?) While it’s not easy to believe that he’s a genius — he needs a drone to find out that there is a car manufacturing plant near agricultural land — he convinces us that he cares. The film doesn’t do much for him, though. It doesn’t give us a moment to breathe or even feel what just hit us. Scene after scene is written like the rough-note scribbles of a high schooler.
The villain’s, though, is a completely different story. The film goes out of its way to show him as an evil corporate monster. Take this scene, for instance: The villain is the head of a Monsanto-inspired evil corporation, who controls governments across nations, curiously named Richard Child. He is waiting for Tamilnadu’s agricultural minister, in the latter’s home, urinating in a potted plant in the living room. “Just marking my territory,” he explains, only a moment before calling the minister a dog who guards Child’s home. I paused — I’m watching on OTT, remember? — trying to untangle the mixed metaphors, but there was a deadline looming and I decided to come back to it in a few years’ time.
Ronit Roy, who plays Child, doesn’t look like a white guy he’s supposed to be. And we see him in what we’re told are Hong Kong and Laos, so we’re not sure how to comprehend his genealogy. Then again, in a film that thinks foreign corporations are evil, but indigenous ones are made with hearts of gold, it perhaps doesn’t matter.
Their encounters are ingenious, full of assumably clever manoeuvres by both parties. You know, like when Bhoominathan just walks up to a judge presiding over another case, educates him on pre-historic Tamilnadu, and gets an order to vandalise temple buildings. Or when he recruits salespeople who report to HR to eliminate middlemen. Or when Child incites a lorry strike to stop Bhoominathan from selling his wares, which the latter tackles by building innovative — wait for it — vegetable carts.
The dialogues too leave sparks flying. Our hero challenges our villain thus: “Idhu varaikkum nee ezhudhi kuduthadha thane un adimainga padichutrundhaanga? Adhu anjaanglass varaikkum pencil-la ezhudhara madhiri. Eppo venumna thiruthikkalaam.” (The script you were writing for your slaves — meaning world leaders — is like writing with a pencil till fifth standard. You can always erase and rewrite it). He goes on to add, with a deeper voice for emphasis, that everything he’s going to do hereon is like writing with a pen in sixth standard. Absolutely no one can erase it or rewrite it.
Ada, idha auto pinaadiye ezhudhalaame!
Lakshman, the writer and director of Bhoomi, appears to have a somewhat unflattering view of his audience. He seems to think anything posted on social media will go viral. And that the media will numbly listen to anything anyone says. And that corporatisation of agriculture — more like a co-operative that adopts corporate practices of sales, HR, packaging, marketing etc. — under a benevolent leader is the solution to all problems.
Worst of all, he appears to think that he can make people believe anything by stroking “Tamil pride”. Yet, he doesn’t go the entire distance. His slogan for an agriculture company named “Tamizhan” is “Vande Mataram”. Go figure.
Bhoomi is streaming on Disney+ Hotstar Multiplex.
(All images from Twitter)
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