Bhoomi movie review: Sanjay Dutt pulls off age-appropriate, impactful role in this flawed film
Sanjay Dutt’s performance is affecting, and when he’s vengeful, you feel his pain. However, Bhoomi stumbles often owing to its dependence on heightened melodrama.
Somewhere near mid-point of the revenge drama Bhoomi, a moustachioed character, that is a fitter extrapolation of a 1980s Hindi movie villain, taunts a grieving and seething father.
He says he has amended a local saying — ‘Save the water’, to ‘Save the daughter’. The bad-man, Dhauli (Sharad Kelkar) is arrogant and unrepentant about his actions. Dhauli is the instigator of a gang-rape that has left Arun Sachdeva (Sanjay Dutt) scrambling to put back the shattered pieces of his sweet and gentle family life.
In Bhoomi, Dutt returns to the stage in an age-appropriate role and puts his all into the part of Arun, a simple shoemaker from Agra. A single parent, he shares a loving relationship with his daughter Bhoomi (Aditi Rao Hydari), an educated, independent, working girl. He cooks her dinner and gives her a head massage. She dyes his hair, makes parathas and chides him on his drinking habits.
Alongside they banter about the future and in passing mention the gender discrimination built into a prayer. Their family home in a small neighbourhood is getting dressed up for her upcoming wedding. But then one day their guileless life is shattered when Bhoomi is gang-raped.
There’s a touching scene of the bride being told to keep the atrocity a secret from her to-be husband and you see a girl dressed up in wedding finery faced with a mortifying choice. Director Omung Kumar handles the sequence tastefully, with minimal dialogue and a montage of little events unfolding around a still-life bride.
But what he earns there, Kumar wastes in the police station and courtroom scenes that follow. For all the time screenwriter Raaj Shaandilyaa and Kumar spend in setting up a world that is a believable mix of stereotypes and new-age thinking, post the crime the narrative takes on the convenience of revenge drama tropes – disinterested and insensitive cops, judgemental neighbours, a one-sided court case, societal shaming, a spineless fiancé (Sidhant Gupta).
The court scenes, in particular, are highly convenient. A lawyer spits out attacks and allegations on the innocent and weaker party. While there’s an instant throwback to Pink, this situation lacks both believability and frisson.
Having seen a couple of opportunities lost, one thinks that the story of Bhoomi will find its metre once it morphs into a revenge drama. It almost does.
But then Bhoomi stumbles, once more owing to its dependence on heightened melodrama augmented with a piercing score aimed unabashedly at evoking tears and ringing eardrums. There is enough violence to make you uncomfortable and look away, but no tears – because the characters are weeping buckets, ensuring you know exactly what they are feeling.
Certain scenes are designed with interesting elements – for instance the crime scene, and the early moments between father and daughter – but design and drama are printed in bold all over the film. There is no escaping either, and there is no subtlety in their delivery.
Based on true events, Bhoomi loads on the messages, which are announced by the characters like headlines on a news channel: Respect women, gender discrimination and gender equality, prevalence of prejudices and double standards. And yet there’s room in here for a gratuitous item number featuring Sunny Leone, performing some strange tribal choreography.
Aditi Rao Hydari plays the whimpering victim well, but her character lacks the fight-back. Kelkar is handed punch lines to match up to his punches, and that just makes him a caricature of bad men of yore.
Bhoomi is better dressed, better filmed and better performed than the old-fashioned revenge drama it actually is.
And the big differentiator is that this film has Dutt showing us that his wrinkles have their own stories to tell. While the idea of an eye-for-an-eye and taking the law into one’s hands is hard to justify, Dutt’s performance is affecting. He’s tender, he’s tormented and helpless, and when he’s vengeful, you feel his pain.
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