Director: VK Choudhary
Cast: Amit Vashisth, Preeti Sharma, Teena Singh, Sayoni Mishra, Praveen Maheshwari, Atul Hanwat
Lekh Kapoor, 31, lives in a grimy 1-BHK apartment at the edges of civilization. The makers have shot in Nagpur, but let’s for a moment believe this is the ugly, half-constructed kind of Mumbai Lekh (Amit Kumar Vashisth) inhabits. Because he is a penniless, aspiring screenwriter who seems to have realized that romanticizing the struggle is ironically a movie trope.
The beard and unwashed hair hasn’t helped him get a breakthrough yet. Somebody, somewhere – a self-sabotaging voice in his head perhaps – has told him that this is his destiny. The lunacy is required. Maybe there’s something to be said about Lekh’s arrogant superiority complex in that his best friend, Irfan, is an uneducated hustler, while his wayward younger brother and volatile mother aren’t literate either.
The writer-director, VK Choudhary, wants to impart plenty of invisible information to us; he ends up injecting meandering rants with “backstory material” as if to justify the difficult personality and facets of his protagonist
Naturally, he feels like the only writer: the only literate man who wants them to notice that he has chosen the tougher option. He feels like the only man intellectually capable of even rejecting one life for another. These are merely observations that don’t rely on self-explanatory dialogues relaying his psychology.
However, we learn a little too much about Lekh and his mind because of the people that surround him. The writer-director, VK Choudhary, wants to impart plenty of invisible information to us; he ends up injecting meandering rants with “backstory material” as if to justify the difficult personality and facets of his protagonist.
So his brother – whose business venture, we’re repeatedly reminded, Lekh has put his life savings into – reminds him about how his destructive love for filmmaking destroyed his marriage with a lovely “bhabhi”. Irfan reminds him about how nobody will pay money to admire his existential, art-house “European” sensibilities. His frustrated mother reminds him that he is his selfish and cowardly father’s son.
His estranged wife, who still loves him, hints that she cheated on him because his physical abuse and distrust stems from his mother’s philandering ways. And a mysterious seductress, Maya, who he spies on from his window, reads him immediately as if he were a cliché. “So you’re a self-loathing, self-obsessed artist who thinks nobody truly gets you,” she declares, within seconds of their first meeting. And so, despite Amit Vashisht’s remarkable internalization, Lekh remains a desperate character for us; we aren’t allowed to guess why he is the way he is – it’s all there, in too many words, for too many minutes.
The Window, a bare-boned indie, is essentially another “mad writer” tale in an unforgiving industry that spawns more madness than stories. As a result, it is personal and therapeutic – mostly for the maker – which explains its self-awareness as an indulgent and angst-ridden exercise in depicting the contradictions of an indulgent and angsty writer. Invariably, we sense that it’s the young director exploring the “what ifs” of his own gritty life, embodying his regrets and decisions by living out alternate realities on screen.
The pointers are similar. So often, we’ve seen the art-confronts-commerce scene: a cocky financier/producer interrupts the writer’s passionate narration to deliver a humbling blow to his self-esteem. And equally often, we’ve seen the writer at a shady bar mourning the culture of unoriginal Bollywood remakes, or typing away furiously all night next to his bottle and cigarettes.
Variable factors like the setup’s uncontrollable heat (Lekh is always armed with a handkerchief), the lack of lighting and basicness of his unhygienic space, and the cheap beedis he smokes contribute to a strange sort of authenticity
Yet, as absurd as it may seem, it’s the film’s physical limitations – shoestring budgets, blurry frames and compromised scale – that lend it the appropriately “dirty” and unkempt palette of its lead character. Bollywood movies like Happy Ending and Roy compose elegant, aesthetically messy surroundings to accommodate their “conflicted” writers. But independent cinema, by visual design, is a writer’s sweaty playground. Variable factors like the setup’s uncontrollable heat (Lekh is always armed with a handkerchief), the lack of lighting and basicness of his unhygienic space, and the cheap beedis he smokes contribute to a strange sort of authenticity.
It defines our uneasiness of having to empathize with a visibly self-destructive man operating somewhere between fact and fiction, between passion and functionality. For instance, it’s easy to notice how Lekh’s lines become “filmy” and “written” as soon as he expresses teary heartbreak to his wife; his language remains easy and non-dramatic while communicating with others.
This is such a writer thing; most of us imagine love to be a cinematic vagary meant to inspire great literature and immortal art. Even the background score – when he isn’t arguing with her – plays out as repetitive, untidy drum solos, mirroring the fatal lack of order and rhythm in his life, and by extension, this production.
Fortunately, The Window is populated with actors familiar with this kind of borderline abuse and its temperamental conditions. Only a little insanity can result in a film that doesn’t need to pretend it’s insane by accessorizing depression. As a result, there’s a curious honesty to its (forced) shabbiness – one that, more than being watchable for 123 minutes, is necessary because the makers just had to get it out of their systems. They just had to address the Lekh-ak in themselves. It’s for us to decide if we want to share their pain and catharsis.
Watch the trailer of The Window here: