Barah by Barah Review

Rahul Desai


Life, Death and Change in Varanasi. This debut film by Gaurav Madan is centred on a man who photographs dead bodies, offers a poignant portrait of a city at crossroads.

Title Meaning

Barah by Barah (“12x12”), the celluloid permanence of death grapples with the digital progression of life. Shot on 16mm film, the story lingers on Sooraj (Gyanendra Tripathi), a man mourning the slow demise of his profession.

A Death Photographer in Varanasi

His camera captures the final still of bodies before they’re cremated on the sacred Manikarnika Ghat. But the use of mobile phones – and the awkward marriage of technology and tradition – means that Sooraj’s services are no longer an indispensable part of the mortality business.

Choosing Elegance Over the Exotic

The film-making in Barah by Barah is muted and effective. Most of it highlights the body language of people in a setting that pits ritual against routine.

Performances Melt into the Surrounding

Gyanendra Tripathi, in particular, navigates that complicated terrain between belonging and being. Sooraj’s relationship with his father is a grounded companion piece to Shubhashish Bhutiani’s Mukti Bhawan (2016) and Kanu Behl’s Titli (2014).

Editor's Gaze

It’s Meena and Mansi’s gaze. Varanasi might be the story being written, but the women are the editors. They reframe stillness as a portrait of motion. And most of all, they turn the digital progression of death into the celluloid permanence of life.