Director: Pushpak Anil Jain
Cast: Mitesh Mahadevan, Vipul Deshpande, Bharat Savale, Ajay Chaure, Anmol Bakaya
It’s interesting to note that for young storytellers still coming to terms with the possibilities of their medium, the concept of justice is a psychological art form. Unlike their mainstream predecessors from the 1990s, for whom cinematic justice assumed the template of larger-than-life revenge sagas, it is now less personal and more socially mindful. There are no more wronged youngsters baying for corrupt blood; the advent of modern-day technology has changed the entire landscape of this previously one-dimensional movie genre. A simple click of a button can bring down administrations, while old-school bullets only hinder the real-world mechanics of law and order.
For instance, Alaksha, a fifteen-minute short film, is a nice example of how vigilantism is more of an individualistic “masala” emotion these days. It tells the tale of a lanky small-time photographer who chances upon a rousing story.
Initially, he bears the gait of a bearded, disillusioned artist in a city that isn’t known to be kind to strugglers. After being forced to purchase a second-hand DSLR from the black market, his directionless life is lent the burden of purpose when he discovers the contents of its memory card. Suddenly, he is dropped into the world of its previous owner. In context of its environment, though, a Hindu man is dropped into the world of a Muslim boy. And suddenly, he has the unpleasant opportunity of tarnishing a system by exposing one bad apple; of swimming against sentiment and tide to make a statement.
His decision here might result in his most significant piece of art yet; ironically, it won’t even be his images that kick-start the revolution. He doesn’t look ready to don the mantle of the country’s newest accidental activist. And yet one senses he wants to, because he has spent too long in the shadows.
Set against the backdrop of a communally sensitive Mumbai during the 26/11 terrorist attacks, Alaksha hints at the “other” side of high-pressure police activity – one of those many hidden incidents we only hear of as whispery rumours. What’s interesting is the way its director, Pushpak Anil Jain, treats the narrative – more as an excitable coming-of-age drama than an investigative thriller. Of course, this involves a few typically convenient found-footage motifs – the contrivances of fate, an indestructible and constantly recording camera, and the advantage of hindsight. But all of this is in service of a brave line of thought.
Especially fascinating is the way an aggressively heroic guitar riff plays when the photographer realizes he has the power to make a difference. Twice, we see his face scored to a soundtrack he has probably only heard in the movies. It’s the kind of music that peppers silhouette-carved shots of a superhero finally wearing a cape and recognizing his/her true destiny. This heightened lens can only be employed by those who are still in a position to idealize the notions of conflict and justice. It’s therefore no surprise to see Whistling Woods International named as the presenter of this restless production. Because Alaksha bears both, the fearlessness, as well as clumsiness, of a passionate student film. After all, it’s a camera that informs this story.