Director Aarti Bagdi’s short Khamakha employs the same storytelling tropes of a feature
Director: Aarti Bagdi
Cast: Harshvardhan Rane and Manjari Fadnnis
Khamakha, directed by Aarti Bagdi, belongs to a growing tribe of shorts that I like to call “mini-masala” movies. In the sense, these are literally films that are made like compressed versions or fragments of (imaginary) full-length mainstream efforts. They employ identical storytelling tropes, the same grammar, only for a briefer length of time: self-explanatory background scores, attractive leads (who clearly stand out among ‘ordinary’ folk), sketchy dubbing (close your eyes, and it sounds like a clean phone conversation), an emphasis on chemistry, lens flares and even the odd playback song or montage. How, you ask, can all this fit into less than 20 minutes?
Perhaps it doesn’t have to, as this film seems to signify.
Boy (Telugu star Harshvardhan Rane) meets girl (Manjari Fadnnis) on a bus: a fantasy so many of us hopeless romantics dwell over in this post Before-Sunrise era. Bagdi presents it more as an opening scene than a bookended story – a beginning – complete with rose-tinted (or in Rane’s case, fashionably dubious) glasses. Suddenly, there is no before or after; down the years, this will become a “Remember how wet met?” story, a sweet memory.
Predictably, the conversation must be awkward, and yet expansive enough to cover various facets of their personalities. Thankfully, formal introductions happen later, which allows the maker to play around with the love-at-first-sight scenario. “Do you have an exam?” the painfully urban chap asks, when he sees her reading a Hindi-language novel. If this girl were on Twitter, she’d have quoted his westernized ‘pre-conceived’ notions and ridiculed him. But this is a quintessential Bollywood meeting: so she engages, and they use desi linguistic perceptions (“Bad grammar is a deal-breaker,” “Reading Hindi doesn’t mean I don’t drink or attend Broadway shows”) to size each other up. It’s all very surface-level, yet somewhat relatable. Will she get off the bus with him and explore
Vienna Maharashtra together?
Fadnnis, an actress first noticed in Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na, has an expressive face that naturally lends itself to our hyperbolic medium. It’s surprising she hasn’t landed more lead roles. Here, she offsets Rane’s rehearsed coolness, and almost makes us forget his moose-faced performance in this year’s disastrous Sanam Teri Kasam. Almost.
When they finally step off the bus together, you smile a little – but only because you know this wouldn’t happen in a world outside of this wishful little film. Not after his opening line, at least. But then again, the title loosely translates to ‘without reason.’ Appropriate enough. That it isn’t called a cruder ‘Bewajah’ tells you everything about the filmmaker’s sensibilities.
Rating: 2.5 Stars