|Ultra Distributors Pvt. Ltd.’s Jalpari – The Desert Mermaid is the story of a village where the girl child is not allowed to be born. It tackles the problem of female foeticide. Dr. Dev (Parvin Dabas) lives with his mother-in-law (Suhasini Mulay) and two children, Shreya (baby Laher Khan) and Sam (Krishang Trivedi), in the city. Quite reluctantly, he gets the family to his ancestral village for a holiday. From the look of it, he is not very happy about his children, whom he dotes on, visiting the village. For him, the outing is a business-cum-pleasure trip as he is trying to build a hospital in the village. There is a section of the villagers who are against the coming up of the new hospital.
Like two normal kids, Shreya and Sam love to explore the village. They meet a group of boys who are, at first, very rude to them and even fight with them. However, they all become friends as days pass by.
As the story unfolds, it dawns upon the viewer that there are only male kids in the village. One day, Shreya visits a secluded spot in a village when her new friends challenge her to do so by telling her that the spot is haunted by a witch. Dr. Dev is not at all happy about Shreya’s visit and tries to dissuade her from going there again. It is now clear to the audience that there is more to it than meets the eye.
Then, one day, Dr. Dev chances upon a horrific sight where women are forced to abort the girl child. What does he do? Is he able to fight tradition and bring the culprits to book? Or does he remain a silent spectator? What about the haunted spot? Is there really a witch there? Who is the scary figure there?
Nila Madhab Panda’s concept about a village which hates the girl child and forces its women to kill it in the womb itself is stark and makes the audience uncomfortable in their seats. However, Deepak Venkateshan’s screenplay moves at a very slow pace, making it boring for the viewer. No doubt, Venkateshan adds a lot of authenticity to the drama by keeping it as real as possible but it, nevertheless, becomes boring after a point of time because of the single track it moves on. What’s also unusual is that the main issue of the film – the point of female foeticide – comes up very late, before which the film seems to be meandering here and there. Also, by the end of it, the audience is left with a heavy heart and a depressing feeling, which may be the intent of the writers and director but which will come in the way of the commercial potential of the film because what the viewers want is entertainment. This is not to say that there is no entertainment in the film. However, entertainment is not in the form of romance, comedy or emotions, like the audience is used to watching in Hindi films. The entertainment here is offered in the form of subtle humour, kiddie talk and the like. All in all, the film turns out to be a thinking man’s fare which will be appreciated by the festival circuit audience and a thin section of the class audience. Dialogues, written by Sameer Roy and Deepak Venkateshan, are realistic and enjoyable at places.
Performances are of a high order and make the drama truly engaging. Parvin Dabas is wonderfully restrained and plays the character with effortless ease. Baby Laher Khan is first rate. Master Krishang Trivedi is also excellent. Suhasini Mulay leaves a mark with a natural performance. Tanishtha Chatterjee excels in the role of Sabri and gives her cent per cent to the character. Rahul Singh has his moments as Veera Boser. Master Harsh Mayar shines. He is so natural that it is a delight to watch him act. V.M. Badola (as Tauji), Salman (as Vijender), Hebron (as Lakhan), Manoj Bakshi (as sarpanch), Amit Vashist (as the vaid), Umesh Srivastava (as panch Joginder), Rajat Bhalla (as panch Sajjan), Harish Chhabra (as Trilochan), Punam Mathur (as sarpanch’s wife), Rita Guliani (as Trilochan’s mother), Saroj (as panch Joginder’s wife), Narender Singh (as doctor), Satpal Singh (as Paaniwala Baba), Aatman Panda (as Sam’s friend), Harsh Vardhan Singh (as village boy), Adil Sheikh (as Radhe), Sonam Kelly (as Radhe’s wife), Anil Malik (as police inspector) and the others provide able support.
Nila Madhab Panda’s direction is suitably sensitive, as per the demands of the script. He has extracted great work from out of all his actors and he deserves kudos for that. However, the script and his narrative style make the film a high-gentry fare and one which will win plaudits at festivals but not much moolah at the box-office. Music is refreshing and has a unique appeal of its own. Whether it is the ‘Jalpari’ song (music scored by Midival Punditz) or the ‘Bargat’ song (composed by Piyush Mishra) or the ‘Ragini’ song (music by Ashis Chouhan), the music has a charm of its own. Lyrics (Protique Majumdar, Piyush Mishra and Ashis Chouhan) are nice. Charu Shanker’s choreography goes well with the mood of the film. Savita Singh does a fine job as cinematographer. Apurva Asrani’s editing is good.
On the whole, Jalpari – The Desert Mermaid is a fine piece of art but its commercial prospects are very weak. Its poor opening will make it even more difficult for the film to leave a mark at the box-office.
Released on 31-8-’12 at Inox (daily 1 show), Sterling (daily 1 show) and other cinemas of Bombay by Ultra Distributors thru Multimedia Combines. Publicity: so-so. Opening: dull. …….Also released in Delhi-U.P. and East Punjab.