Starring Aarti Jha, Sanjay Suri, Divya Dutta
Directed by Brahmanand S Siingh
Jhalki is not a great film. It is riddled with imperfections and the plot careens dangerously towards manipulative sentimentality.
But this is film that comes straight from the heart, warts, moles, smothered screams and all. It is a must-see for anyone who cares for the underprivileged children of the country who are often left at the mercy of savage exploiters and vulnerable to attacks of all sorts due to poverty.
Little sprightly Jhalki and her baby-brother Babu, almost like speckled cousins of Durga and Apu, with not a care in the world (except perhaps where the next meal would come from) are torn away from their village and parents, when a ruthless middleman (Govind Namdeo, scarily scummy) whisks them away to the city.
There begins Jhalki’s search for her missing brother, a search that will remind you frequently of last year’s much-vaunted exceedingly disappointing Love Sonia. Jhalki is a far more honest, if technically reductible in its sophistication and appeal, work than Love Sonia.
The flaws in the plot and the rough edges in the storytelling in some ways, add to the film’s gnawing sense of foreboding. Luckily debutant director Brahmanand S Siingh spares us the more gruesome details of child trafficking. Nothing really awful happens to either Jhalki or her missing brother. Siingh consciously avoids the salacious sordidness of other films on the theme child trafficking.
The little female protagonist’s determination to find her brother remains inspiring till the end. Aarti Jha who plays Jhalki is not the least conscious of the camera as she takes on the adult world of lies greed and desperation with a wisdom and obstinacy that belie her years.
Seasoned actors show up in cameos, in the way they did in Raj Kapoor’s Boot Polish. Some of of these special appearances seem to have been written into the plot for the sake of including recognizable names in the cast. Among them, Sanjay Suri as the dithering district magistrate of the town comes across as specially ambiguous. Little Jhalki’s rapport with a kindly rickshaw puller (played with warm persuasion by Bachan Pachera) is so real, it hurts.
The heart in Jhalki is immovably in the right place and the end-result undoubtedly moving. You may not think much of the film’s proclivity to hammer in its message. But the authentic locations and the little girl’s determination to right a monstrous wrong sweeps away all misgivings. Watch Jhalki for its unalloyed humanism .