If the short film ecosystem had a gender, would it be female? Some of the best Hindi ones I’ve seen capture skillfully and succinctly the inner lives of women. Like Neeraj Ghaywan’s Juice or Jyoti Kapur Das’ Chutney. Shorts are liberated from the burden of box office or stars, which enables filmmakers to move away from predominantly male narratives and find the story in the small detail. Like Mansi Jain’s Chhuri.
As the name suggests, Chhuri is sharp and effective. The film makes its point in 12 minutes. Mansi writes and directs. Tisca Chopra acts, co-writes the screenplay and produces. The film is about a Sunday morning when a housewife Meera (played by Tisca) decides to confront her husband’s infidelity head-on. The film begins with scenes of mundane domesticity – naashta, paratha, juice. But a persistent text messaging beep and Sharad’s sly smile tells us that all is not well. Soon enough he slips out to meet his lover. Meera follows. What happens next is deliciously unexpected – there are no tears or recriminations. Instead Meera, who is much smarter than the other two, turns the situation on its head. It’s hilarious.
Chhuri is fun because Mansi upends our expectations. She skillfully creates suspense – the lift isn’t working and Meera must climb many floors. We see her sweaty and panting making her way up while her husband and his lover get frisky on the sofa. Chhuri builds up to the classic confrontation but delivers something else. After Chutney, Tisca is once again a housewife with a philandering husband. Here she doesn’t downgrade her looks but she is clearly presented as the doormat who caters to her husband’s every need, including making sure there isn’t too much butter on his paratha. Early in the film, her teenage daughter berates her about the situation saying – kuch nahin kar sakte ho aap, you are hopeless. But of course she isn’t.
The other masterstroke is casting director Anurag Kashyap as Sharad, the entitled, selfish husband who is so foolish that when Meera arrives, he thinks he can hide behind a sofa and get away with it. Anurag’s expressions of helplessness and hurt are priceless. The dialogues, by Mansi, are also razor sharp. My favorite was a killer line about Sharad’s socks.
The best short films work like potent shots of alcohol – quick, bracing and satisfying. Chhuri does this. Check it out.