Director: Gautam Vaze
Cast: Abhishek Bachankar, Rujuta Deshmukh, Madhura Welankar Satam, Aaryan Dalvi
Aai Shapat (meaning: Mother Promise), a winner at this year’s Mumbai Film Festival, is a sweet little slice of childhood.
As kids, most of us have had that one strangely definitive incident: an experience that partly shapes the kind of adults we’d grow into. It could be anything – a field trip, classroom punishment, missing family member, a dog bite or even a creepy watchman. In young Soham’s (an adorable Abhishek Bachankar) case here, it’s a routine cricket game with chawl friends.
His older cousin, Ninad (Aaryan Dalvi), a visitor for the weekend, is part of this game. Ninad cheats while batting, but very characteristically for a pre-teen, swears by his mother (“God promise” was my choice of lie because I was a closet atheist; also, I valued my mother too much) to kill off the controversy. Soham observes this, and for some reason, it leaves an indelible impression on his mind. He believes, like so many of us once did (and so many of us still do), in the humbling power of superstition. After all, it is inherited from his friendly neighbourhood middle-class Maharastrian family; we overhear the ladies in the hallway – one of them, Soham’s mother – discussing how “wearing black” is a bad omen that evening.
Director Gautam Vaze designs, with an eye for detail and simplicity, an important snapshot of little Soham’s life
So naturally, Soham begins to shadow Ninad’s mother, his fond aunt, for the whole weekend. He doesn’t let her out of his sight. He is worried, you see. He is worried that Ninad’s carelessness might cost him his aunt’s life. It’s endearing, as well as a little sad, because we know he will grow out of this naivety one day.
Director Gautam Vaze designs, with an eye for detail and simplicity, an important snapshot of little Soham’s life. In the process, we also get an insight into the thinking process – and hence, by default, a modest upbringing in a God-fearing community – of a child. Soham is scared all weekend because he is honest and gullible. He is too young to know otherwise. This weekend, in a sense, will be his coming of age. One way of looking at this incident is that it might have permanently influenced his perception of superstition and blind faith – hopefully, in a favourable manner. But another way of looking at it is that he might also be permanently influenced about the uselessness of such empty phrases, and therefore the common practice of lying.
If nothing happens to his aunt, he could just “Aai Shapat” his way to adulthood. If something does happen to her, we can be sure he will remain painfully honest, yes, but also very, very religious. I’m not sure which one is a better deal. Either way, a loss of innocence is guaranteed. A change of perspective is a given. Which is why, irrespective of our personal inclinations, Vaze’s perceptive Marathi-language short makes all sorts of sense – especially if we’re willing to look beyond its obvious cuteness.
Watch Aai Shapat here: