Any doubts that some of the best work in cinema is happening in the short-film format is dispelled by this extraordinary little film about an ordinary woman’s revenge on her destiny.
Shame packs in a deluge of action and reaction in a tale that could easily be a sitcom or a romcom. Except that it’s founded on the premise of savage cruelty. The kind we inflict on those not powerful enough to fight back. And then one day, something snaps.
Fanny, played with fabulous reverberations of a tragic splendor by Swara Bhaskar, is an amiable housekeeper in a luxury hotel-liked by the guests, as we are shown right at the start. Her world comes toppling down after she is caught by one of the guests played by Ranveer Shorey trying on his mistress’ negligee while cleaning the room.
Fanny is, of course, sacked, and as the ever-riveting Seema Pahwa tells her, what can a woman of meager means and zero power do?
Plenty, as it turns out. As Swara Bhaskar darkly determined and starkly vengeful, sets off to play havoc on Shorey, we are taken into the bizarrely entertaining revenge of Meryl Streep’s She Devil peppered with the scarily rampageous ramifications of a slighted Everyman, akin to Michael Douglas in Falling Down, who decides he(or in this case, she) won’t take the humiliation lying down.
While the film keeps the vendetta on a light burner (nothing really harmful happens until Shorey’s wife shows up with their child just after he pukes on his mistress), it has very dark and disturbing undertones suggesting a brewing rebellion in the working class. Swara is pitch-perfect as a woman scorned. She unleashes her fantasy of fury into scenes that play out in the spirit of a freaked-out fairy tale with lots of pop-out pictures. Perhaps this girl is already on the brink, not quite “all there” when she’s pushed over the edge. Swara gives us a portrait of a spiraling selfworth with just the right flavour of acrimony and mischief.
Ranveer Shorey as the philandering bigot is as usual made for the role. I must make mention of Cyrus Sahukar who provides some terrific comic relief as the hotel manager forced to take off his trousers by a distraught guest.
“Sir, there must be a more practical way of settling this,” Sahukar squirms.
Luckily not. If there was, there wouldn’t be this delightful saga about settling scores.
By Subhash K. Jha