Directors: Rahul V. Chittella, Amira Bhargava, Arunima Sharma, Annie Zaidi, Pratik Rajen Kothari, Supriya Sharma, Satish Raj Kasireddi
Watching a film anthology has always been a strange experience. Unlike, say, an omnibus edition of short stories, we aren’t presented with a choice to “recover” between two narratives. It isn’t as simple as putting down a book and savouring the compactness of words; films, especially unconnected ones, draw you into a world and demand that you adjust your sensibilities quickly, without much of a turnover period. Our eyes and mind take a while to absorb a different voice, suppress reactionary tendencies and postpone the immediacy of our instant feelings.
Often, a few films fall into these cracks of belated acclimatization skills. This is somewhat self-defeating for an audiovisual project, not very different from greedily devouring as many titles as possible in a weeklong film festival.
In the end, as is the case with Shor Se Shuruaat, a theme-based “sequel” of sorts to Humaramovie’s Shuruaat ka Interval (2014), it’s easy to feel satisfied, as if surfacing from a buffet of exciting new starters. But it’s equally easy to feel a little disoriented, given that its seven films belong to upcoming directors mentored by extremely diverse, distinct Indian visions.
Across the board, they literally operate from vastly separate universes – from the multi-layered grounded-ness of Mira Nair to the quirky visual palette of Homi Adajania, from the edgy subversions of Sriram Raghavan to the existential angst of Imtiaz Ali.
It’s only natural for viewers to compare, in terms of dramatic effect, the seven works pivoting on the common theme of shor (noise); some literal, some figurative, all pretty imaginative.
It’s only natural for viewers to compare, in terms of dramatic effect, the seven works pivoting on the common theme of shor (noise); some literal, some figurative, all pretty imaginative. Perhaps it was my conditioning of watching three-act feature-length films over 100 minutes, but my blank-slate mind truly picked up the essence of the first film (Azaad, by Rahul Chittella, mentored by Mira Nair) and the visceral final hurrah (Miai’m, by Satish Raj Kasireddi, mentored by Imtiaz Ali).
Mentored by Mira Nair, director Rahul Chittella’s Azaad revolves around the conflicted relationship between a popular anti-establishment writer and his son.
Azaad has the mood of an expansive, more introspective film. It revolves around a popular anti-establishment writer (Atul Kulkarni) who goes by the titular pen name, and his conflicted relationship with his modest-means-resenting family. His son (Siddharth Menon) is the kind of modern millennial that feels suppressed by his father’s painfully honest, old-fashioned, rabble-rousing contemporary-freedom-fighter avatar.
He wants to break away, yet finds himself pulled back when his father goes missing. The transitions between both the narratives – that of a documentary-maker interviewing a bashful Azaad in his living room, to his son’s present-day epiphanies while he watches the footage in search of clues – is seamless and meditative.
Menon (Peddlers, LOEV, The Time Machine) is an excellent young actor, and combined with Mr. Kulkarni’s very writer-ish idealism, he lends Chittella’s film the ‘sound’ of guilt and silence. Writers who have borne the brunt of compromised publications (like yours truly) will probably empathize with Azaad’s star-crossed existence.
Miai’m, on the other hand, has the Imtiaz-Ali stamp all over it – heartbreak, rage, rebellion, travel, music, montages and closure. It revolves around a reclusive Meghalayan girl (Baia Marbaniang; terrific) banished back to Shillong after an MMS scandal, partially akin to the predicament and inner turmoil of Leni (Kalki Koechlin) in Anurag Kashyap’s Dev.D.
Satish Raj Kassireddi’s Miai’m has his mentor Imtiaz Ali’s stamp all over it – heartbreak, rage, music, montages and closure.
The fleeting exploration of a new culture and setting aside, this film looks – and sounds, more importantly – the most accomplished and genre-free of the lot. What with the songs used as a crucial device to further the geography of the narrative, I couldn’t help but be driven by the texture of a vibrant full feature-length film.
Amira Bhargava’s Aamer (mentored by Zoya Akhtar) is another well-executed little film, perhaps the most literal and loyal adaptation of the project’s theme. It’s almost cynical (and accurate) in its acknowledgment of noise, telling a bittersweet tale about a hearing-impaired kid adjusting to the wonders of his new hearing-aid device.
From his wide-eyed astonishment welcoming after-dark slumber sounds to his wide-eyed shock of a bustling day-assault on his senses, Aamer is a playful effort, reflective of Ms. Akhtar’s childlike curiosity when not constrained by commercial responsibilities. This is the second time she has helmed a short (after Bombay Talkies in 2013) pivoting on the travails of a pre-teen protagonist.
The more genre-specific, experimental films – like Annie Zaidi’s futuristic Decibel and Arunima Sharma’s unmistakably Amelie-esque Yellow Tin Can – are interesting to say the least, but lack the emotional punch one expects to be rewarded after 20-minute shorts. Supriya Sharma’s Dhvani, about a death-row convict (Sanjai Mishra) and his last wish, as well as Pratik Kothari’s Hell O Hello (mentored by Shyam Benegal) are relative misfires; the former too deliberate while stretching a one-liner, and the latter too loud and overly satirical with its comedy-sketch-ness.
Much like its predecessor, Shor se Shuruaat is a decent peek into the future of Indian filmmaking
Much like its predecessor, Shor se Shuruaat is a decent peek into the future of Indian filmmaking. But 2014 was still a time when collectives like Terribly Tiny Talkies, Pocket Films and the others hadn’t yet hit the scene running. 2016 is a different ballgame altogether; the medium is now littered with starry shorts ranging from average to indulgent to world-class.
I personally don’t know what the next level is, but more can be achieved by breaking free of the limitations attached to an Indian theatrical release. Digitally, the sky’s the limit – and then some more. Purely within this ever-evolving context, I expect more memorable, more vivid, moments from a sprawling anthology. Perhaps it’s time to move past the Shuruaat.
Digitally, the sky’s the limit – and then some more. Purely within this ever-evolving context, I expect more memorable, more vivid, moments from a sprawling anthology.