New talent is always welcome. The six stories of this uneven omnibus promise something fresh. But on delivery, some of them fail to live up to their promise. Barring one brilliant episode named “Adi Sonal”, featuring Neena Gupta in her career’s best performance, the other short films of this well-intended anthology leave much room for improvement.
The first story “Tap Tap”, directed by Praveen Fernandez, has Chunky Panday pulling out all stops to deliver a rousing, if not a great, performance as a has-been music director desperate to make a comeback. Panday, never taken seriously as an actor, doesn’t hesitate to look pitiable on screen. It is an honest film with a dishonest, fake-forced ending meant to shock, but sadly missing the target.
“Khauff”, directed by Hanish Kalia, is chilling but only until it chooses to not pin down the source of fear. This is an interesting premise of a paranoid man on the verge of breakdown, played with chilling scrupulosity by Amit Sial (remember him as the closeted petty businessman in a Delhi family in “Titli”?). The finale is again meant to shock by hook or by being undercooked.
The story “Gutthi”, directed by Avalokita, has some eminently relatable moments between two flat mates struggling (in vain) for over five years in Mumbai to make a career in the entertainment business. Merenla Imsong and Veera Fauzia Saxena play the two strugglers with a free-flowing naturalness probably because they play characters they know well. However, the plot doesn’t go anywhere, although one of the friends eventually does.
“Guddu” is that one token story dedicated to the LGBTQ community that no self-respecting anthology would be complete without. The story of a runaway bride (Anurita Jha) has ‘clever’ written in bold. Its twists and turns are self-consciously designed to win us over.
The first-timer’s insecurities frequently do these stories in. None more so than “Bhaskar Calling”, directed by Sanjiv Kishinchandani. An interactive quirky novella on screen about an old, eccentric, stereotypical Parsi (Shahryar Atai) and an earnest insurance agent (Kamil Shaikh), its fits of purportedly funny moments are cringe-worthy.
Easily the best of the motley bunch is “Adi Sonal”, where Neena Gupta gives an unforgettable performance as Sonal, a tired but undefeated matriarch trying to keep together a family that is coming apart at the seams.
Director Heena d’Souza creates the stifling milieu of a low income middle-class home with economy and grace. Like Sonal, the director knows she is running out of time. Neena and Trimila Adhikari, who plays her rebellious daughter-in-law, make this story special.
“Shuruaat Ka Twist” suffers all the symptoms of first-time directors’ anxiety to get our attention. Also, the budgetary constraints show up like moneylenders at a wedding.
In the best story of the omnibus, when a woman rides off into the night with her lover, we can see the director called ‘cut’ even before the motorcycle moved out of the frame.
To put these stories in movie theatres seems imprudent. There are many better short films on the Internet, including an undiscovered gem titled “Aapka Amitabh” directed by Pallav Goel. [By Subhash K. Jha]