The Jengaburu Curse(SonyLIV,7 episodes)
Rating: *** ½
Nila Madhab Panda’s OTT debut is quite an achievement. Panda’s cinema has always been extremely conscious of ecological imbalances and climate warming.To create an expose on the plundering of the eco-system without dragging the content down to an expository level, is not easy.
Panda achieves a laudatory synthesis of a climatic message and a gripping thriller. Outwardly The Jengaburu Case is about an NRI girl Priya Das’s search in Odisha for her missing father who may or may have Naxal links. As Priya flows her father’s footprints in the slush I was reminded of Jaya Bachchan in Govind Nihalani’s Hazaar Chaurasi Ki Maa.
The mystery surrounding the patriarch’s disappearance is explored through various conspiracy theories, none in the realm of the implausible, except when at midpoint Priya,played with remarkable restraint and understanding by a Hyderabad-based actress Farida Abdullah(whom we need to see more of on the OTT platform) , decides to play superwoman.
Priya’s self-appointed role as her father’s finder is way out of league with the believable tone of rest of the series This, however doesn’t deter the sense of progressive dread that the director and his skilled writer Mayank Tiwari have stitched into the storytelling.
The Jengaburu Curse weaves tribal tradition into the culture of devastation.There are loose ends and limp passages in the storytelling. But these do not diminish the overall impact of the content which is at once tense dense and chilling.
The actors are frequently local artistes from Odisha. They confer a compelling authenticity to the overall presentation. Nila Madhab Panda is never out to impress us. His command over the language of political bullying is at times startling. There is a shocking episode where a corrupt police officer(Shrikant Varma,brilliant) physically roughs up Priya in the jungle. Her shock at how creaky the bureaucratic wheels have become in our country, is a shared moment of anguish for us the spectators.
I am not too happy with the ‘climax’ where the villains and the lawmakers shoot at one another in a very filmy style. I understand there is no easy solution to the massive corruption in our country. The Jengaburu Curse will remind you that the tool of social reform is finally in the hands of each one of us.
The authentic locations, even for an incidental shot at the airport, augment the credibility of this investigative thriller considerably.