Omung Kumar’s new movie wants to make an impact of the earth-shattering, heart-piercing and tear-inducing kind. Without wasting any time, Bhoomi gets into the mood in the opening sequence – a woman is dragged screaming into a car as the background music shoots into the stratosphere.
A flashback reveals the identity of the woman after whom the movie is named and her beloved father Arun, a shoe salesman in Agra, who is not to be confused with the other shoe salesman from Agra, the one from Garm Hava (1973). Bhoomi (Aditi Rao Hydari), a wedding planner on the eve of her own wedding, dotes on her widowed father (Sanjay Dutt). Numerous scenes establish their bond and provide the backdrop for Arun’s transformation into a vigilante after Bhoomi is abducted and gang-raped by three men, including Bhoomi’s pursuer (Puru Chibber) and his monstrous cousin Dhauli (Sharad Kelkar).
As rape-revenge dramas go, Bhoomi treads over well-worn territory, and not because the movie is supposedly drawn from real-life incidents. Bhoomi is your regular rape-revenge drama, but only much louder, with better camerawork and production design. Kumar, who has previously directed Mary Kom (2014) and Sarbjit (2016), doesn’t let go of the opportunity to throw in splashes of colour to enliven exceedingly familiar moments, including a climax bathed in red-coloured powder and turmeric-yellow fabric. As Bhoomi’s groom-to-be (Sidhant) abandons her, court proceedings turn into an excuse for character assassination, and the neighbourhood turns against her and her father, there is always a nice piece of fabric or a colour-coordinated prop to elevate the movie above other more sordid fare.
Bhoomi makes a lot of noise about gender justice and women’s rights, but it also creates a spot for an item song featuring Sunny Leone. While torturing one of the perpetrators, Arun approvingly lists countries such as Saudi Arabia and Iran as role models for dealing with rapists, with death presented as the only form of punishment for rape. Like the July release Mom and numerous other films of its kind, Bhoomi cannot even dream of allowing the victim with the opportunity to deal with the rape on her own terms or suggest that she can start a new life. Among the better scenes is a father-daughter conversation in which Bhoomi appears to be overcoming her sanctioned victim status, but since revenge is on the menu, it is duly served soon after.
The movie is named after the heroine, but it never forgets who is driving the story. Sanjay Dutt, in his first film since his release from prison, gets the chance to flex muscle and invoke memories of his tough man persona in the extended ultraviolent climax. The actor, who is playing his age, is far more effective and affecting as the wounded father than Rao Hydari’s permanently stricken victim. Sharad Kelkar makes for a suitably evil old-school villain, and has numerous pieces of dialogue that underline his dastardliness in thick black ink.
Although the idea that death is the only punishment for rapists is as objectionable as they come, Dutt carries his scenes through with convincing righteousness and menace. He is barely believable as a shoe salesman, but delivers the goods while dealing with Dhauli and his posse. As the vendetta fantasy reaches its foregone conclusion, the one who makes the greatest impact isn’t the victim but the one who takes revenge on her behalf.