Director: Hardik Mehta
Cast: Amit Sial, Khushboo Upadhyay
Drishyam Films’ first short, Paroksh, about a rural Mangalore-based couple troubled by the alleged presence of a supernatural force, bore the melancholic gaze of its first-time filmmaker’s evolved perspective on his old hometown. From its details and local flavour, one sensed the distant, more practical take of a storyteller who had perhaps shifted away from this environment. So many creative people who make their career in Mumbai often use their work to look inward – back in time – to gently tap into their roots.
Drishyam’s second short, The Affair, meanwhile assumes the unmistakable observational gaze of an immigrant (writer-director Hardik Mehta is originally from Vadodara) exploring his new environment, fascinated by this big city’s cultural oddities. Personal space, or the lack of it, is one such trademark vignette to “newcomers”; it is plainly visible and claustrophobic to those who make this city a professional base, but just “a part of life” for locals who’ve spent their whole life here. For many of us who haven’t belonged here from the beginning, we tend to look deeper – possibly at the human aspect – at most big-city clichés, hoping to subvert the mindfulness of our own touristy perceptions.
The playfulness of the belated score, the charming coyness of the woman, the natural familiarity of their little kisses, and the overall mood of the visuals make this an endearing, hopeful snapshot of the city
The looking-inward bit of Mehta’s artistic journey might have already manifested itself in the form of his lovely National-Award-winning documentary, Amdavad Ma Famous. If his exploration of space gained dramatic heft as the co-writer of Vikramaditya Motwane’s fantastic solo survival drama, Trapped, The Affair is an organic, more every-man and bittersweet extension of the same motif. He fashions one of the many little untold stories around one of the several open-to-scrutiny, desperately loved-up Marine Drive couples – those we often surreptitiously judge, driven by a curious mix of voyeurism and empathy.
The choice of actors here goes a long way in making this film an interactional one. You’d expect someone as shifty as Amit Sial in a title called “The Affair,” which is why the optimism assigned to an inherently sad urban reality is a pleasant surprise. The playfulness of the belated score, the charming coyness of the woman (Khushboo Upadhyay), the natural familiarity of their little kisses, and the overall mood of the visuals make this an endearing, hopeful snapshot of the city – more of the show-must-go-on variety than the sobering no-escape harshness that a similarly themed (and equally fine) one-minute short called Paijana offered.
One can even imagine the edgy Shaurya (Rajkummar Rao, from Trapped) grow older into a more “grounded” version of himself like Sial here – someone who’s humorously made peace with the stolen moments of a lower-middle-class destiny. This one left me with a smile. Not entirely a sympathetic one, either. And this, despite the film ending with images of the city’s greatest long-running tragedy.
Watch The Affair here: