Torn In Sixty Seconds – Paijana Short film review

A film must leave viewers thinking after, and not during its length. Rohin Raveendran’s 60 sec short Paijana does just that

Director: Rohin Raveendran

Cast: Debanshu Shekhar Jha, Aparajita Dey

Rating: 3.5 stars

Note: This review has spoilers.

So many things go through your mind before you sit down to watch a one-minute film. Sixty seconds. Can it even qualify to be called a film? You think about the shorter big-budget advertisements that cram in fifty fancy shots to dazzle your senses. You think about 25-minute short films that feel far too long to be called a short. You even think about all those heartwarming minute-long festival ads, only to be snapped out of its cinematic world by a product tagline or signature theme.

paijana-short-film-review

You think about all the formats storytellers utilize to express an agenda, and how viewers tend to associate scale and sensibilities with duration. It’s an equation that has turned increasingly skewed recently – what with even the simplest of thoughts tainted by the complexities of ambition.

Perhaps it makes sense, then, that Rohin Raveendran, the director of the minute-long Paijana (Anklet), is young and at the beginning of his career. For most seasoned filmmakers, downsizing their vision is still easier than condensing it.

For 50 seconds, it’s only about a man quietly gifting a woman an anklet for her birthday at midnightThen you panic – only ten seconds to go? You wonder if this is a mistake, or just a trailer of a film; this can’t possibly conclude in ten seconds.

But the trick often is to imply, and not tell, a story. It’s about selecting the best possible scene to suggest the essence of an idea or a life. The rest must be left for the viewers to imagine, subject to their socioeconomic exposure, experiences and observational habits. It must leave them thinking after, and not during its length.

And Paijana does just that.

paijana-short-film-review

For 50 seconds, it’s only about a man quietly gifting a woman an anklet for her birthday at midnight. He wakes her up with a torchlight. You don’t wonder why. You hear a train passing by in the background. You think about how most Cadbury ads start like this.

You expect a tender background score. And perhaps a punch line. Or a sweet parting shot. Here, they simply exchange a glance: lust, love, longing, contentment – you wonder which one it could be. For those few seconds, it feels like a private little dream. A real film.

Then you panic – only ten seconds to go? You wonder if this is a mistake, or just a trailer of a film; this can’t possibly conclude in ten seconds. You anticipate a rude shock. The mood isn’t that of one leading to such a thing. It wouldn’t make any sense.

Perhaps it makes sense, then, that Rohin Raveendran, the director of the minute-long Paijana (Anklet), is young and at the beginning of his career. For most seasoned filmmakers, downsizing their vision is still easier than condensing it.

Except, it does. The door opens. After several gentle tight close-ups of two faces, one wide master shot is all it takes. A scene that looks straight out of Shaunak Sen’s feature-length documentary, Cities of Sleep: A man who enters, steps over them, and a bunch of other sleeping bodies packed together like sardines, to the other corner of the room. He is back from work. The End.

paijana-short-film-review

The thinking begins: suddenly, this couple becomes somebody – with a past, and possibly a future. It forms in your head. A grim survival tale. Migrant workers, one presumes. A single room above a bar or restaurant. A thankless owner looking to cut costs. Homeless, or away from home. Maybe they’ve eloped to this big city, still on the run. Or perhaps, more interestingly, a new couple. A young couple. Still unfamiliar to one another.

Their little blossoming love suppressed by space and, in context of our film, time. You imagine them in broad daylight, as one of the thousand cash-strapped couples stealing a moment at public beaches and promenades. Then you notice the two bodies separating them. And a sleeping father hugging his son at another corner.

A country like ours isn’t made to sustain the concept of privacy. Yet for many, it sustains isolation, despite never really being lonely. The final shot of Paijana could even be a still photograph or painting, and it’d be as evocative. It’d still convey – and not tell – a story, or many stories.

The two faces leading up to it merely lends our guilt an identity. A mood, which, by way of its abrupt termination, feels far more fleeting than it is. This could only have been a short film.

[Paijana is the only Indian short to be selected in the final 25 at the international one-minute film festival, Filminute]

 

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