Director: Mansi Jain
Cast: Aparshakti Khurana, Geetika Vidya, Mallika Dua
Producer: Royal Stag Barrel Select Large Short Films
Duration: 9 minutes 49 seconds
Streaming Platform: YouTube
The thrill of a short film is not knowing how the story ends, or where it will just … stop. The fear of abruptness and abandon colour the clipped viewing experience. Often, as with the chilling Sumit Vyas and Amrita Puri short film Suno, the tension builds till the last line when the whole film is then re-read in context. As a viewer, you’re on your toes, looking for clues.
Mansi Jain’s short film Nawab doesn’t quite care for this convention. Right off the bat, you know how the short film will end. It belongs to the dog-genre of cinema, with the intent- to elicit an aww- being quite apparent. The run-time then becomes about how one gets to this rather predictable ending.
Nikhil (a patchy Aparshakti Khurana) is dumped by his wife of four years because she wants to pursue a promotion in the UK. She tells him, “Don’t tell me you didn’t see this coming.” We are air-dropped into a marriage breakup, but the tone, dialogues, and posturing feels like a grumpy husband sending off his over-ambitious wife on a brief work trip. There is no pathos, no drama, and pure exposition. Before she leaves, he asks her about her dog. She says it is not ‘hers’ but ‘theirs’, and that he should now take care of it. Comic sound effects cue in.
Perhaps we are not meant to feel devastated for any of the characters. So, in the next scene when he speaks of wanting to end his life, you are not moved. Even when he earnestly tells a tonally flat Mallika Dua, the owner of a dog shelter the same thing, her reaction is “Well done,” no shock, no grief, no empathy.
Perhaps this is the world Jain wanted to create, where emotions are merely registered, never felt. (In that case, using a dog- the symbolic fulcrum of emotion- as the catalyst for a story that doesn’t care much for emotions is quite daring.) Or perhaps, it is just inept-ness.
Like I mentioned, the joy of watching a short film is that one moment of joy or surprise or grief. While Jain does away with suspense entirely, the ending doesn’t quite tug the joy-strings either. It’s sweet, and the sweetness is merely noted as a viewer. But who cares for merely noting emotions? We watch cinema for catharsis. Let’s leave the note-taking to the therapist.
(Mansi Jain has written a column called ‘You Should Know’ for Film Companion)