It has been decades since India gained freedom, but many Indians are still trapped in longstanding conventional and obsolete traditions, especially gender disparity. India is advancing at a swift tempo in various arenas, but the picture is far from glowing at the grass root level. In fact, it is murky, especially when it comes to how we care for the fairer sex.
A number of storytellers are creating movies on issues that were considered unthinkable in times of yore. Spectators revere innovative concepts and are extremely desirous of witnessing newer accounts unfurl on the big screen. A blizzard was created by Aamir Khan's show SATYAMEV JAYATE on female foeticide, which was discussed and debated extensively.
JALPARI is the second film of Nila Madhab Panda, whose first feature film I AM KALAM won several national and global honors. JALPARI deals with the various predicaments that a girl child encounters in rural India and also addresses the divide between rural and urban India. In fact, female foeticide, gender inequality and atrocities on women are unsettling subject matters. Since the documentary culture is not popular on the home-turf, Panda endeavors to depict a forbidding topic by highlighting the male and female sex ratio in a lighter way, without getting preachy about the whole thing.
A well-heeled family from New Delhi travels through the dusty roads into a village in Haryana. Shreya [Lehar Khan], the tomboy of the family, finally arrives at her father's village for the first time during her vacations, that too after coaxing her father, Dev [Parvin Dabas], to the best of her abilities. She and her brother, Sam [Krishang Trivedi], had, in their imagination, spun the village right out of a fairytale, replete with streams, lakes and grasslands that will allow them to run free. But all they find are dusty alleys, dried up ponds and hostile playmates.
But unknown places have many secrets. Strangely-behaving villagers, a witch whom everyone seems to be terrified of and a no-access zone beyond the hills intrigue Shreya, more so after the housemaid, Shabri [Tannishtha Chatterjee], tells her mysterious stories about the village. Then, one night, Shreya sees Shabri and her husband Trilochan slink away and starts following them, only to find out a horrifying secret the village harbors.
There still exist families who strongly believe that a male child is a necessity for every family. Although JALPARI deals with a distressing theme, I wish to adjoin, it's not a documentary on female foeticide. It's more of a voyage that queries gender discrimination through kids. As a matter of fact, JALPARI should appeal to both, grown-ups and kids.
Panda is one amongst a handful of film-makers who has the skills to formulate a statement most understatedly. What's creditable is that Panda gives it the masterly and insightful touch that a subject matter like this necessitated. The society is in a desperate need to change its disgraceful prejudices and JALPARI persuades the populace to do just that. Also, Panda uses the songs ingeniously in the narrative. The sounds are rustic, yet contemporary. Savita Singh's seamless cinematography and Apurva Asrani's impeccable editing are amongst the other strengths and muscle of this motion picture.
Akin to I AM KALAM, Panda extracts brilliant performances from the kids here. Both Lehar Khan and Krishang Trivedi are tremendous. Harsh Mayar is fantastic as the kid who bullies Lehar and Krishang. Parvin Dabas, Suhasini Mulay, Tannishtha Chatterjee, Rahul Singh and V.M. Badola, each actor pitches in his best here.
On the whole, JALPARI is a motivating and thought-provoking movie that relies absolutely on the muscle of its powerful storytelling and performances to communicate a blazing subject matter. The movie is in its own independent space, not competing with the zany entertainers Bollywood is so famed for. An inspiring motion picture like JALPARI needs to be encouraged and nurtured!