March 30, 2020
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Jalpari: The Desert Mermaid

Warm and empathetic: an engaging story which sustains the viewer’s, especially children’s, interest

Jalpari: The Desert Mermaid
Jalpari: The Desert Mermaid

Starring: Lehar Khan, Parvin Dabas, Tannishtha Chatterjee, Suhasini Mulay
Directed by Nila Madhab Panda
Rating: ***

What happens when two city-bred kids travel to their dusty Haryana village for a vacation? Adventure, which also comes packed with significant life lessons. It’s not the idyllic village of their dreams but a problem-ridden place with dried up ponds, unfriendly villagers, unspoken secrets, out-of-bounds spaces, a “child-eating” daayan (witch) and no girls, a reason why wives are “imported” from New Jalpaiguri.

From the start, it’s evident that Jalpari comes with a cause attached: it is on the alarming, dwindling sex ratio. But it is not a boring coaching class. The story is narrated in an engaging manner, like an Enid Blyton mystery, which sustains the viewer’s, especially children’s, interest. Jalpari does many an interesting thing. For one it has a tomboy of a girl as the protagonist Shreya, thereby questioning the role-playing that a girl and boy are expected to do. Here the girl is bold while her younger brother Sam is the tame and timid one. Their banter feels real; some of the elders, especially dad Parvin Dabas and grandmom Suhasini Mulay, are warm and empathetic. Like I Am Kalam, Panda’s previous outing, Jalpari is also a consciously good-hearted film but feels a lot less laboured and designed.

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