Director: Gaurav Bakshi
Cast: Rahul Bagga, Manjari Fadnnis, Pramod Pathak, Aparna Upadhyay
Cot, a short film about a newly married Maharastrian couple struggling with a creaky bed, is a little too long and ripe with role play – no pun intended. It is designed as yet another caricatured joint-family setup, but one that is forced to confront a more intimate, pressing issue instead of boringly broad household politics. The characters look like they’re in a soap opera, their thoughts are vivid and heightened, but their situation is inescapably private – almost as if the director decided to “expose” the real problems of a saas-bahu environment within these stylistic parameters.
As a result, Cot is accessible, fairly committed to its obvious tone, and carries forward an on-screen “middle-class sexual revolution” kick-started by some of its predecessors this year. Sonam Nair’s short, Khujli, starring Jackie Shroff and Neena Gupta, playfully positioned a passionless marriage of advanced age within the realms of a generational void; the endearing couple discusses, discovers and discards the “young-ness” of BDSM and other adventurous possibilities. R. S. Prasanna’s enjoyable Shubh Mangal Saavdhan, starring Ayushmann Khurrana and Bhumi Pednekar, wasn’t too stiff about the loud cultural consequences of Erectile Dysfunction. Not unlike the feature-length “social comedy,” Cot, too, resorts to cheeky domestic metaphors – wordplay and images of the perfectly cooked roti, the criticism of old goods, perceptive parents and an amorous wife (Manjari Fadnnis) aching to croon a cabaret-style palang song.
The onus is on the makers to integrate the tricky “bedroom” eggshells within the textural hypocrisy of these spaces. It is up to them to find that fragile balance between wishful and authentic
While it’s easy to find fault with the “regressive” depiction of a typical Indian home – a young housewife dutifully serving her in-laws, a hard-working man afraid to pose demands before his father – it’s important to note that each of these films base their progressive communication patterns within the reality of such households. Irrespective of our own ideologies, they exist, in small towns and big cities. And the onus is on the makers to integrate the tricky “bedroom” eggshells within the textural hypocrisy of these spaces. It is up to them to find that fragile balance between wishful and authentic. For these families, the conversations might become very deadpan and matter-of-factly – hysterical to look at (case in instance: mom Seema Pahwa’s attitude in SMS), given that nobody has the “experience” to openly deal with such issues.
Which is why the awkwardness remains funny and tragic – it doesn’t have to be forced, because of the inherent conservativeness rooted deep within these walls. The husband (Rahul Bagga) here, however, is so traumatized by the bed that he has quirky nightmares about various possibilities – spoofy courtroom scenes and skit-like flashes that limit this film to an act of “innovative storytelling,” even though the subject itself doesn’t need such narrative decorations.
Thankfully, the actors seem to be in on the theme. They pull off what producers generally refer to as a “risqué” topic, without once seeming overly realistic and self-serious. Short films, unlike their longer counterparts, don’t have the tendency and time to slip into sprawling “monologue” phases and social-relevance sermons (example: Akshay Kumar starrers). They remain consistent, and therefore, lightheaded.
I’ll still have to wait for the day Indian filmmakers don’t feel the need to disguise the sensitivity of sex with kiddie gloves and silly musical cues. Accessibility is one thing; cartoon-ifying remains an unfortunate possibility. But, one step at a time. Cot isn’t quite the explosive climax of its genre. For now at least, it’s the foreplay that counts.
Watch Cot here: