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Deham

It needs most what it stands against -- first world technology. Nihalini stumbles when he should and could have stomped and danced on the scavenging policies and rotten souls of the WTO and enemy MNCs.

Deham
outlookindia.com
-0001-11-30T00:00:00+0553
Starring: Kitu Gidwani, Joy Sengupta, Surekha Sikri Rege, Aly Khan
Director: Govind Nihalani
Rating: **


Biting hard into the exploitative flesh of third world organ trade, Govind Nihalani vents his spleen with a savage vision in Deham (Body). Set in 2022, in a Mumbai chawl, the film cuts into Interplanta, an eyes, liver, kidney and marrow-loving MNC, about to seduce an unemployed Om Prakash (Joy Sengupta) into selling himself organ by organ. Waging the war over his corpuscles is his wife Jaya (Kitu Gidwani), who stands between Interplanta and her husband as he primes, feeds and builds his body for sale. Titled in Sanskrit, Deham is based on Manjula Padmanabhan's award-winning play Harvest, where Nihalani uses English liberally to identify the enemy—Ginnie. A single-white-blonde-bodysnatcher, she supervises Om Prakash and family obediently feeding on the cud supplied to them by Interplanta through a roving camera. Intruding and probing into their one-room hall and life, Ginnie and her talking-telly abruptly stop when there is no toilet to be seen. (Chawls don't get better by 2022 nor do the toilet queues get any shorter). Zap—a WC—is installed in the single room by a germ-fearing and health-obsessed Ginnie.

That's where the plot crumbles. The film's vision is impaired even if it is accorded a post-2020 reality. The claustrophobic camera that lingers on the contours and corners of the room never even gets close or under the lid of the first-world lavatory. The radio seems suspiciously single band—Akashwani. The chawl—a living creature mired in close-circuit gossip, abuse and invective—remains on the outside soundless, colourless and distant. Even the foreplay and sexual tension between Jaya and Om Prakash the film opens with are quickly forgotten and lost and you can't blame that on the budget. For big money was spent on the 23.5 minutes of digitally-created special effects that clumsily depict a one-way organ trading future. In a climax that could have raised the bile, blood and guts of the entire global thinking world, Deham loses out. Beating back the bodysnatchers with her womb as her weapon, Jaya's victory against the Interplanta forces seems too singular—it doesn't remind you of David and Goliath, John Moore (the man who lost the rights and patent to his own spleen) or even of the arrows waiting to be slung against the WTO. Despite a great script and a great director, Deham needs most what it stands against—first world technology. Unforgivably bludgeoning Manjula Padmanabhan's cleverly-crafted play with poor FX and miserly production values, Nihalani stumbles when he should and could have stomped and danced on the scavenging policies and rotten souls of the WTO and enemy MNCs.

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