Director: Sumit Aroraa
Cast: Kritika Kamra, Kunal Kapoor
White Shirt, by writer-director Sumit Aroraa, explores what we call the “limbo” phase of crumbling romantic relationships. This part isn’t so much abusive as it is healing; it isn’t a very pleasant period either, for not only those involved, but even those who watch – and reluctantly sense – this slow, inevitable fadeout. When reality lingers on the cusp of turning into a memory, a series of indecisive ifs and buts often mar any prospects of ‘cinematic’ communication. Here, we feel like a fly on the wall stuck within the solemn, moody confines of a woman (Kritika Kamra) struggling to move on from the frailties and misgivings of her shifty live-in boyfriend (Kunal Kapoor).
In a fortunate departure from all the melodrama attached to shackled hearts, remarkably, Kamra isn’t seen shedding a single tear. Instead, she puts on the kind of curt face that yearns to demonstrate detachment – the familiar “what is it?” tone even as she aches to express attachment and all sorts of volatile withdrawal symptoms. She silently craves for him – or at least the endearing idea of him – through a shirt he (sneakily) leaves behind in her cupboard.
This fleeting action of his tells us a lot more about his smooth, rehearsed, passive-aggressive power-hold than any of Kapoor’s gentle, and sheepishly appropriate, intonations can. She is tragically aware of her own limitations, her lack of self-respect by gravitating towards a smiley-faced lover who has long been exploiting her weaknesses and taking her for granted.
Kamra’s deliberate performance suggests all these things without really spelling it out. This makes the film more than just an empty musing, which it could have become with some visually inconsistent ping-ponging between two timelines.
Aroraa, as most writers should be, seems a keen observer of the uneasy quiet that surrounds the highs and lows of flawed urban equations. It does feel like he is looking for an answer, a quest interrupted perhaps only by the conventional practice of equipping his ‘heroine’ with Queen-like mainstream closure. Once the mandatory breaking-free song sets in, White Shirt turns into a prologue of sorts – one that you can imagine is followed by the episodic adventures of a working girl in Mumbai.
By understating the keynotes of his dimly lit first film, Aroraa invests enough confidence into his own understanding of the grammar of grief. It’s rough around the edges, diary-like (one can imagine her narrating this life-changing experience, as the “worst and best thing” to have happened to her), yet relatable and vaguely personal. This is far more than can be said about longer epics pivoting on the loud gasps of human separation.
Watch White Shirt Here: