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Jhilli review: Ishaan Ghose paints a powerful picture of urban inequality

The film won the Best Film Award in the International Competition on Innovation in Moving Images section at the 27th Kolkata International Film Festival

4.5/5rating
Jhilli review: Ishaan Ghose paints a powerful picture of urban inequality
Aranya Gupta As Bokul in Jhilli
  • Shamayita Chakraborty

Last Updated: 11.46 AM, Nov 11, 2022

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Story: Bokul (Aranya Gupta) has been living in Dhapar Math (Kolkata’s dump yard) for years. He works in a bone discard factory. Bokul and his friends get to know that a portion of the landfill site will get a facelift as part of urbanisation and privatisation. The film then turns into the journey of Bokul affected by the sense of displacement.

Review: Jhilli is undoubtedly one of the bravest films in recent times. In the film, Ishaan Ghosh captures the universe of Dhapa ground – the dwellers, discards, and the running economy around the dumping ground of Kolkata. And it is the director’s honest effort that makes the film classy and credible.

Jhilli talks about perhaps the lowest rung of ‘have nots’ in a city. In poetic strokes, Ishaan has captured their hitherto overlooked life, survival, friendships, amusement, and heartbreaks. Bokul and his friends Shombhu (Sombhunath De) and Ganesh (Bitan Biswas) do drugs, tease each other, dream together and watch the crumbling dreams together. The film has no structured narration. Rather it is a beautiful collage of hard-hitting and delectable shots. For example, the scene in which Bokul guards himself against rain with a polythene wrap and steps out into the city from his own landfill world speaks of discomfort and uncertainty. The fear of Bokul’s queer friend outside their comfortable world of Dhapa leaves a lasting impact.  

It is not just the subject but the method that Ishaan took to shoot the film is also surprisingly refreshing. He took his team and walked around the city’s deepest, darkest secrets and captured the virgin locations of Kolkata effortlessly. They shot in real locations and even during the pandemic. It took almost four years to make the film and that too, with a zero budget. It is his father, celebrated filmmaker Goutam Ghose, who produced the film. Ishaan maintains the true nature of an independent film. He is the cinematographer and the editor of the film. Without any frills, he took his camera and walked across the streets to capture some of the beautiful shots in the city. It also has a lovely and experimental soundscape. The uncomfortable buzzing sound of the Jhilli factory or the clamour of the city from the Hogg Market rooftop and the empty night are beautifully captured. The actors look very real and raw. Aranya Gupta as Bokul is very spontaneous. So are Shombhu (Sombhunath De) and Ganesh (Bitan Biswas). They have a sublime camaraderie over the crack and roaming around the city. The film ends with a series of heartbreaking sequences.  

Review: Jhilli generates discomfort and that stays with you for a reasonably long time. It delves into a universe that we stay away from. It is a film that shows disparity and the gutter under the gloss of urbanisation and that makes it stark. Jhilli is also devoid of any inhibition – artistically or socially and that makes it a brave film. It bagged the Best Film Award in the International Competition on Innovation in Moving Images section at the 27th Kolkata International Film Festival. And with the film, we get an emerging filmmaker who is class apart.  

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