The Jengaburu Curse (2023) Series: Adivasis Parable

The Jengaburu Curse narrates an apt and brave Adivasi* Parable set in the mineral-rich region of India. Its mystery drama is set in the fictional Jengaburu place in Odisha state.

For those, who are unaware, *Adivasi is a local Hindi language term, it simply means the ‘Indigenous Native folks’ and/or the ‘Tribal’ people of India. As we live in Jharkhand, both states (Jharkhand & Odisha) share similar communities of Adivasi folks living in the mineral-rich belt of India, with similar tales. Thus, Adivasis are well aware of the curse of minerals lying beneath the surface of their lands. As they have paid a huge price, in fact, they continue to pay an immense cost without getting equitable returns for their displacements.


Synopsis (official summary) of this 2023 Cli-Fi series from India

Against the backdrop of bauxite mining, unexplained deaths and displaced tribals, a financial analyst uncovers a dark international conspiracy around nuclear power, endangering her life and the country’s future. ‘The Jengaburu Curse’ is India’s first cli-fi (climate fiction) web series delving into the exploitation of natural resources for human greed.


Spoiler Free Review of The Jengaburu Curse (2023) Series

A peek into its storyline

In case if you take a closer look at the story of this series, then you might find that the corrupt administrative and broken governance system in the country has ensured that the Adivasi folks are not only branded as the Naxals but are uprooted, and then displaced from their ancestral lands. So the Adivasis lose their traditional homes, where they have been living for many centuries and generations.

On the other hand, more than Billions of dollars worth of precious minerals have been mined both legally and illegally, besides they are still being mined in the regions where Adivasi folks have been living earlier.

So, for the Adivasis, such a tragic reality is an evil curse, really.

Harsh realities of mining in the Adivasis region

As unsustainable (both legally and illegally) mining continues to exploit both the Adivasis community living near the green forest cover and perishable natural resources (flora and fauna) for unsatiable human greed. This cycle of misuse and abuse continues unabated in the name of the blind pursuit of growth and development of a selected few, perhaps.

Most of these mining barons are billionaire people with deep pockets and unhindered reach to rulers in the corridors of power, who can frame favourable policies and provide support to the powerful state machinery to mine and make tons loads of money. This is what happened with the Adivasi community living in the villages near the Jengaburu mountain region, as they too lost their homes and livelihood.

Then there are the Naxal issues in the Adivasis region

The tribal community (fictional Bondria/Gondria) are even branded as the Naxals by building a powerful and dominant narrative of the influential people. Although, this show has been marketed as India’s first “cli-fi” (climate fiction) web series delving into the exploitation of natural resources for human greed; the Adivasis’ perspective is the central theme of The Jengaburu Curse.

The powerful set of people who have mercilessly killed the members of the vulnerable Adivasis community in this story. In addition, they loudly branded these Adivasis as Naxals and forcibly displaced them from their villages. Then, they snatched away their livelihoods in an inhuman manner. However, it tells its story at a breakneck speed. Maybe because it has been described as a thriller.

Lacked the emotional depth to tackle Adivasi issues, still…

The glaring lacks emotional depth in its story while representing the plight of Adivasi folks is too obvious to miss out. Besides, there are quite a few discrepancies in the way this show has portrayed the Adivasi community in the show. Anyway, I shall not criticize this show any further. Instead share its positive aspects here, as I believe, that its filmmaker Nila Madhab Panda has tried to tell an important story of our times with an Adivasi heart and soul.

Tumne Jengaburu barbaad kar diya
(You destroyed Jengaburu)
.
Ek pure tribe ko wipe out kar diya
(Wiped out an entire tribe)
.
Yahan hawa, mitti, pani mein zeher faila diya
(Poisoned the air, soil and water)
.
Jab yeh nadi sukh jayegi
(When the river stream dries up)
.
Jab machliyan mar jayegi
(When the fishes die)
.
Jab yeh aakhri ped mar jayega
(When the last tree dies)
.
Tab kya paise khayega?
(Then will you eat money?)
.
{the dialogues from The Jengaburu Curse show}

Has a group of talented actors, good music, cinematography and the conclusion

It has an amazing bunch of talented actors led by Faria Abdullah, Nassar, Makrand Deshpande, Sudev Nair, Deipak Sampat, Melanie Gray, Sukumar Tudu, et al. They have ably supported this contemporary tale. In fact, all of them have done justice to the globe-trotting storyline. Also, I liked the depiction of the traditional Adivasis painting styles during its opening casting scene.

Not to forget, I even admired the background music score by Alokananda Dasgupta as well as the use of the local Adivasi songs in the show. The beautiful cinematographic shots of the Bauxite mines, the forest areas of Odisha, the towns of Odisha, et al. reminded me so much of the neighbouring Jharkhand (my) state, as both share similar geographical areas, with the exception of the sea. No doubt, keeping one’s prejudices aside, it is a good and unique show to watch despite its flaws and shortcomings. The Jengaburu Curse deserves one look, at least for its efforts to tell a relevant story of our times.


Ratings of The Jengaburu Curse (2023) Series

FM’s rating4.05/5
IMDb rating as of the date8.00/10
FM & IMDb ratings – The Jengaburu Curse (2023) series

Spoilers Alert – its basic story plot & the real-life stories

Focus on the basic story plot of this show

So, what is the basic plot?

A London-based financial analyst Priya Das (her late mother has tribal roots, so she too has a tribal connection) returns to Odisha in search of her missing father. Her quest leads to a conspiracy involving bauxite mining, secretly backed by an international nexus and a billionaire, leading to unexplained deaths and a displaced tribal community in (fictional) Jengabaru (means red mountain) region.

And, what happened in real life?

This show reminds me of real-life cases of the Niyamgiri Hills and the Dongoria Kondhs community. To refresh your memory, I am sharing excerpts and an article about the Niyamgiri hills and mines.

Ten years ago, on April 18, 2013, the Dongoria Kondhs, a particularly vulnerable tribal group (PVTG) from Rayagada in Odisha won a historic legal battle in the Supreme Court of India. In the Orissa Mining Corporation Ltd vs Ministry Of Environment & Forest case, the court recognised their cultural, religious and spiritual rights on the Niyamgiri Hill, over Vedanta Company’s claim to exploit the hills for bauxite.

Niyamgiri: 10 years since India’s first environmental referendum | Down To Earth
Focus on the fictional story of this show and the true bauxite mining story of Odisha

Inspired by the real-life incidents

Maybe it is inspired by the real-life cases (of the Niyamgiri bauxite mines, the Dongoria Kondhs people, a London-based mining company, the naxal narratives, JNU references, etc.) happening in India.

Allow me to share the excerpts from an article about Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), Delhi

JNU is different not only because of its penchant for radicalism and anti-establishment sentiments, but also because it represents a diverse yet inclusive campus, gives space to radical voices not only from the Left movement but across the political spectrum, and promotes a tradition of dissent.

Why JNU is a Left bastion | The New Indian Express

However, it is worth noting that its filmmaker and writers have so far not commented on the same.

So, the Jengaburu Curse is a fictional story.

It is not a true tale, although it talks about the real issues in its series.


Focus:- bonus info. about worshipping Buru (Hill) in Jharkhand

Santhal tribal folks worship Buru (Hills) as per their traditional religious beliefs. They primarily live in the Santhal Pargana region of Jharkhand state in India.

Santhals tribal folks (Adivasis) worship the Marang Buru [Parasnath Hills] – the supreme deity or the Great Mountain as well as Lugu Buru in Giridih and Bokaro districts respectively, Jharkhand. Both the places are highly revered and respected amon the said Adivasi community.

Although, as of now, the Santhal are also residing in the neighbouring states of Odisha, West Bengal, etc. besides in the neighbouring countries of Nepal and Bangladesh.


Poster of The Jengaburu Curse (IND/2023) Series

The Jengaburu Curse – official poster

Key details of this 2023 Cli-Fi series from India

GenreThriller, Mystery, Drama, Suspense
Age-certification A (18+)
Original languageHindi (with a smattering of Odia, English and tribal languages)
Released inAugust 2023
Season & EpisodesSeason One (1) – Episodes (7)
WriterNila Madhab Panda, Mayank Tewari
DirectorNila Madhab Panda
Music DirectorAlokananda Dasgupta
CastFaria Abdullah, Nasser, Sudev Nair, Makarand Deshpande, Deipak Sampat, Indraneel Bhattacharya, Hitesh Yogesh Dave, Shri Kant, R.Badree, Sukumar Tudu, Maninee De, Pavitra Sarkar, Melanie Ruth Hill, etc.
NetworkSony Liv
About – The Jengaburu Curse

Trailer of The Jengaburu Curse (IND/2023) Series

Trailer – The Jengaburu Curse | YouTube.

If you like this show about the indigenous Adivasi community of India, then do check out the Jai Bhim movie, too.

Featured & Other Images: The Jengaburu Curse | Sony Liv.


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