Director: Shanawaz Nellikunnil
Cast: Dhananjay Tayade
A man stands at a bus stop in the middle of nowhere. It’s misty. He waits. Watches a cycle passing by. Lights a cigarette. Smokes. Takes a ride into the city. He walks through a market, drinks rum at a hole-in-a-wall bar, takes a dip in the ocean, sunbathes, watches a film alone, gets a shave. Time slows down in Shanawaz Nellikunnil’s enigmatically titled 405, a short film based on a story by Murali Govindan, Krithika Manohar and Vishnu Nair.
Every mundane action – activity – of this man whiling away a summer day in Goa is stretched out. It’s not exactly a vacation. The camera stays on him like a quiet companion, refusing to interrupt him, urging the viewer to wonder what the agenda of the 19-minute short is. Surely, it’s leading to an outcome, a resolution, if not for the character then perhaps for the onlooker.
When it does come, like most good stories with a “twist,” it completely changes – and humanizes – our perception of the film. It’s a worthy moment, and one that lends context to the cinema of loneliness that precedes the end. I like the way the filmmaker frames his protagonist. No words are said, it’s just a somber-looking guy doing his thing, somewhat determined to enjoy the little pleasures in life most of us take for granted. But he isn’t smiling. He’s just feeling. We see multiple reflections of him in mirrors on the road and in a barbershop, as if to suggest that there’s no room for anybody else but himself in his space.
Given the situation we’re in today, in the middle of a global pandemic, in various states of quarantine and social isolation, the man’s mental landscape is inadvertently alluring. The satisfaction he seems to get from an ordinary routine – smoking, drinking, swimming, watching, admiring his past – is far more relatable than the film might have imagined it to be. He could be a man who is savouring a new beginning. But then again, he could also be a man whose end is palpable. It could be the first day of the rest of his life, or the last day of the best of his life. Either way, the filming of time is nicely weaved into his being. It’s not just ticking, it’s running out.
I also like the colour palette of the film. Yellow is a recurring theme: the matchbox, cycle, rose, bananas, movie ticket, walls. It’s the colour of sunshine and optimism, beach-towns and freedom. It’s almost like he’s trying to pack in as much of it as possible, like a bright dream, a break from reality, because maybe there’s no guarantee of when this opportunity will return. On the other hand, yellow is also the colour of illness. Of being trapped my factors outside our own control. After all, he occupies a film whose identity is defined by a number. Not a name.