FC Hotlist is a series that spotlights films which are looking for buyers and distributors. It is an ongoing project to link indie filmmakers who are looking for a wider audience, to producers looking for fresh stories that stand out in the cinematic landscape.
When I Shoebox last year, I had called it one of the finest, most present movies of our time. Present, not just because of how it spoke so directly, so confidently to the time it is set and released in, but also because it doesn’t pretend to have the luxury of retrospect, of moralizing its story and gifting it to a future generation. It is an intensely present tense-film, one that does not look to the past for comfort, nor the future for hope.
Set in the cusp of a moment when Allahabad, in a frenzied hate-wave, was renamed Prayagraj — when shuttered single screen theatre were occupied and taken over by local goon-politicians; when Amitabh Bachchan’s murals on walls were shadowed by blooming real estate — the film is a portrait of not just a city in flux, but also of a family in which a father and a daughter jostle for love and understanding.
Mampu (Amrita Bagchi) has just returned from Pune where she is pursuing her PhD — in what exactly, we are not told — to look after her father, a crabby widower who smokes himself sick. A Bengali in Allahabad (Purnendu Bhattacharya), he’s holding onto a crumbling single screen theatre. Why hold onto dead heritage? The answer is never simple, and Shoebox doesn’t attempt at simplifying what is a complicated intuition — a mixture of nostalgia, grieving, respect, responsibility, arrogance, stubbornness, laziness, and a fear of the world revving ahead too fast.
As the film flits between flashbacks of Mampu’s childhood and the present, it grows increasingly restless. Politicians and goons start populating the story, throbbing its inertia. Doom pulses through the film, becoming louder and louder as scenes progress. And yet, as writer-director Faraz Ali noted in a recent discussion on his film, even if the film’s tone may be helpless, it is never hopeless.
Writer-director Faraz Ali can be reached at [email protected]