Cast: Jayam Ravi, Nidhi Agerwal, Ronit Roy, Saranya Ponvannan
It’s now Jayam Ravi‘s turn. It’s hard to say how long he’s been waiting in the queue but his chance to headline a Tamil film around farmers, the heavy message film that uses a sledgehammer approach is finally here.
Bhoomi, directed by Lakshman, begins with a note saying another writer had registered a story with similar elements with the South Indian Film Writers Association and that this note acknowledges the coincidence. You don’t say! And then we get the opening credits with images of Nikola Tesla and Albert Einstein, for a second warped out of one zone and dropped into another.
Bhoominathan (Jayam Ravi) works at NASA and has found a way to make Mars hospitable. Farming is so central to the film that Bhoomi has figured out a way to grow things in Mars. That’s basically The Martian but there is no note about that. He also lives just 500m away from the Statue of Liberty. We’ve seen films set in foreign cities taking great pains to show the most recognisable landmarks through a door or a window. But Lakshman goes one step ahead. Bhoomi can literally throw a stone at Lady Liberty. How does he travel to work, I wonder?
One of the least annoying things about Bhoomi is the Tamil dubbed-over characters speaking in English. And it is unbearable. For a second, it makes one think the white people on screen are really conversing in Tamil but then you hear stray English words in the background. For a film like Bhoomi with no regard to anything close to coherence or filmmaking 101, that’s a lot of effort. It also makes one wonder why they didn’t do the same for Ronit Roy.
Why make him (his voice-over artiste) speak in Tamil in an accent that lies somewhere between a Sowcarpet stereotype and Kamal Haasan‘s Balram Naidu. We are soon yanked back to Thoothukudi, sadly the location of choice for Tamil films of this flavour since 2018. What follows is a laundry list.
It’s like Lakshman is checking off one item after another in the list that many before him followed. There are protests, police brutality, a lot of nonsense lecturing on GMO crops, groundwater science, self-immolation and evil corporate. There is an uneasy irony in this early contender for the worst film of 2021 releasing at a time the farmers are protesting outside Delhi against laws that sanction corporate meddling. But Bhoomi is so bad, one simply cannot watch it with a straight face.
Lakshman is the kind of filmmaker who feels tremors when he writes or films women. They are props in his film. In the first two scenes out of her share of five (I didn’t count, I just completely forgot that she existed in this film’s universe where Mars is more prominent than her Shakthi) Nidhhi Agerwal is dressed like she’s out on a Saturday night in Chennai while as soon as Bhoomi turns to agriculture on the third rock from the sun instead of the fourth, she is, now how do I put this, not in that fancy dress competition anymore.
Later when Bhoomi is selling his products – the hero spans end to end – she is in a T-shirt and in a montage song sequence, she’s asked to hold a pumpkin and do squats while everyone else is delivering crates of vegetables. Apart from the mother (I feel sorry for you, Saranya Ponvannan), every woman is either a honey trap or under duress at the hands of collectors and ministers – their function defined only by their bodies.
Get a grip Lakshman! You can’t make a film like this and then name your villain Child.
Bhoomi is streaming on Disney+ Hotstar.
The Bhoomi review is a Silverscreen original article. It was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the film. Silverscreenindia.com and its writers do not have any commercial relationship with movies that are reviewed on the site.