Jal Jangal Jameen
Dec 21, 2022
We live in a rapidly changing world. Naturally, this translates itself into our art forms - be it film, dance, music, or painting, the ways in which art is presented are radically different to five years ago, let alone one hundred. Some art forms are on the verge of extinction - even the cinema-going experience is in decline - including tribal artwork in India. ‘Jal Jangal Jameen’ highlights the importance of the artwork, and acts as a plea to encourage its survival.
The film - a documentary - shows an event arranged by Samvaad, a platform for exchanging ideas and thoughts on tribalism in India, in which various tribal communities will paint their own respective art forms on a single canvas. The event is a chance for each community to represent themselves, whilst also encouraging unity and diversity amongst the Indian tribes. The documentary also touches on the heritage associated with the artwork, and the importance of nature to Indian tribes.
Director Debanjan Majhi shoots the documentary with an artistic eye, and clearly understands the principles of documentary-making. The long shots of artwork and children running in nature send a clear message - that this event is culturally important and must continue to be upheld. Though the message is clear, then the precise details of the historic value of the event are anything but.
The information we are given through both a series of interviews, and a discussion around a roaring fire, is either repetitive or conflicting. Some interviewees emphasise that the event has been occurring annually for over a hundred years, whilst others seem to believe that this is its first occurrence. These conflicting narratives paint an unclear picture. On the other hand, the importance of this event to honour both culture and nature is reinforced by every interviewee, becoming repetitive as each puts their own spin on the overall message that such an event is needed to preserve both nature and traditional tribal culture.
Additionally, ‘Jal Jangal Jameen’ has a slight corporate edge to it - especially towards the end when praise is heaped onto fundraisers TATA, who own Samvaad. Nevertheless, Majhi’s direction should be appreciated, and its message is of importance to all - particularly its cry for environmental preservation, which has never been quite so pertinent.
Aside from contradictions and repetitions, the documentary itself paints an almost idyllic view of the artistic event - noting that, in true artistic fashion, it is ‘an experiment of its own kind’. The people are joyous and genuinely appear united by the display of artistic expression. There is local music, dancing and wildlife captured through Majhi’s lens, emphasising the overwhelmingly positive outlook taken by the documentary.
‘Jal Jangal Jameen’ is at its best with a group of villagers sitting around a campfire discussing the artistic gathering, and when Debanjan Majhi is given free rein to capture the joyous faces of those at the festival. However, the film all too often loses itself in interviews with figures important to the event, who only repeat each other's words and contradict the campfire gathering.