Sanjay Dutt’s disastrous comeback

Daniyal Zahid finds it difficult to come up with a positive thought about Bhoomi

Sanjay Dutt’s disastrous comeback
When Bhoomi’s posters came out a couple of months ago, as Sanjay Dutt was set to appear in his first film for three years, it had everyone – especially Dutt fans – excited. It was evident that the superstar, having been given a break by circumstances to draw a line and move on, both in front of the camera and away, would henceforth don a new avatar – the over-50 all-conquering action hero that Bollywood has never really had.

That is indeed who Sanjay Dutt essentially is in Bhoomi, with a single parent to cash in on his soft image as well. But he couldn’t have chosen a worse script, nay a cinematic disaster, to officially launch that particular persona.

A poorly scripted, half-hearted picture with Sanjay Dutt pulling the action stunts would’ve done the business as a comeback extravaganza based on star power alone. But when the subject is as sensitive as rape, a foot put wrong in the writing can damage the entire product. Bhoomi actually chops that foot off, and its head, in a fitting tribute to the gory self-decapitation that the film turns out to be.

Aditi Rao Hydari in Bhoomi

Bhoomi (Aditi Rao Hydari) is gang-raped on the eve of her wedding, as father Arun Sachdeva (Sanjay Dutt), a shoemaking small-business owner, struggles to get justice for his daughter. What follows is a revenge drama, that only self-identifies as such after sailing all possible waters completely alien to the main ambitions of the film.

In addition to being Sanjay Dutt’s comeback movie, Bhoomi has only one other purpose for its existence: to drive home the narrative of capital punishment for rape. The debate over that is beyond the scope of this piece, but even if one were to completely buy that goal, the film’s execution is a monstrosity, with the first victims of the violence – that it depicts in abundance – being its own narrative, followed closely by those that bear the horror show.

Even so, the film’s biggest crime is its atrocious foray into societal and philosophical deliberations over a subject that it couldn’t have dealt with more wretchedly.

Following the success of Mom and Pink,made on the same subject, Bhoomi musters the audacity to make the discussion women-centric.But in a vengeance-loaded plot centered around Sanjay Dutt, it only manages to push the rape survivor to the periphery – often leaving behind a cringe-fest, gagging even the usually indifferent with disgust.

There is a difference between capturing the sickening attitudes regarding such a subject in society, to depicting it so inconsiderately that it appears as though the film is at the forefront of the mockery.

Had the film not seemingly burdened itself with the feminist responsibility of bringing the women to the forefront, and remained a patriarchal father-kills-daughter’s-rapists-takes-revenge-on-her-behalf script, the viewer won’t have put any responsibility on it either. And with some tightening it might’ve even passed off as a sloppy, regressive, overcharged action movie.

What it ends up as is a criminal concoction that has the nerve to pose as presenting a narrative regarding an issue that couldn’t be graver anywhere in the world than in India.

To highlight any positives in the movie – which were few and far between, as is evident – would almost be akin to being accomplices in the crime that the film was.

But perhaps one must give Aditi Rao Hydari her due – since the director, the script, and the film clearly failed to do so – for her acting. Even a half-baked film that had the sense to actually base the subject on the woman in the movie, might’ve been carried by Aditi’s powerful performance.
The film's biggest crime is its atrocious foray into societal and philosophical deliberations over a subject that it couldn't have dealt with more wretchedly

Unfortunately, the film was supposed to all about Sanjay Dutt. And putting the man at the centre-stage in a film that overestimates itself to a point where it wants to be considered a part of the discussion on rape, is a shipwreck that even Sanjay Dutt’s star power can’t come close to saving.

It’s hard to believe that the film is directed by Omung Kumar, who has given us Mary Kom and Sarbjit in the last three years. Maybe it’s best if he sticks to biopics – that would keep him from presenting sadism in the garb of ‘reality’.