Director: Vicky Barmecha
Cast: Rajat Barmecha, Seema Pahwa
Bhaiyya Morey, a Rakshabandhan-themed short, might have worked better as a Darna Mana Hai (or Darna Zaroori Hai) anthology segment a decade and a half ago. In the sense it sounds exactly like one of those basic old wives’ tales narrated by a young adult around a bonfire, back when college kids still believed in frightening each other with words rather than desperate Tinder profiles. Back in the noughties, there was a cheeky novelty about subverting ancient folklore legends by putting an urban everyman in the middle of a creepy highway. Today such films don’t feel as wicked – and original – anymore.
The intention of the platform here, with Bhaiyya Morey, is to be mischievous and unorthodox with an orthodox occasion – much like they managed with Mamta Tonic on Mother’s Day a few years ago. The setup here is more conventional: a rapper (Rajat Barmecha), the ultimate emblem of brash modernity, is stranded on a dark highway after his car breaks down. His cellphone is discharged. He sees a harmless old aunty (Seema Pahwa), the ultimate emblem of dated traditionalism, who offers to help him. Of course, her ambiguous behavior has him in two minds.
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We sort of know what the filmmaker is trying to achieve. The viewer is supposed to second-guess the genre – is the horror a red herring or not? Therefore the interaction between the two strangers becomes important. The exchange between an enthusiastic Nana Patekar and an irritated Vivek Oberoi in the ‘Ghostly Lift’ segment of Darna Mana Hai comes to mind. But the writing here is too obvious. Too designed. For instance, in the beginning we learn that the young man is on his way to his sister’s for a late Rakshabandhan because of a phone conversation in which she explicitly mentions: “I know you’re coming only for me. This is my first Rakhi after marriage.” This sounds less like a natural brother-sister exchange and more like a script-audience device – surely, there has to be a more organic way to convey this information.
The man insists on breaking out into a few English lines (“Daku? Seriously? Like in the movies?” “I’m a rapper, you know?”) while communicating with someone clearly on the other end of the spectrum. At one point, this used to be amusing. Not anymore
Then there’s the stubborn habit of infusing quirk into the buildup by highlighting the cultural gap between the two main characters. The man insists on breaking out into a few English lines (“Daku? Seriously? Like in the movies?” “I’m a rapper, you know?”) while communicating with someone clearly on the other end of the spectrum. At one point, this used to be amusing. Not anymore. Bollywood movies do this all the time, even today, to romanticize the urban-heroines-and-rural-heroes template. In a short film, especially when the mood sways between dark and deceptive, such writing tricks feel more jarring. More because this is the only verbal form of the story. Never mind that at some point a sister gives her brother a gift, instead of the other way around – subverting the tone is OK, but even the concept of the festival?
The filmmaking might be right, but these little things derail the aura of its storytelling. The horror, then, starts to look as wishful as a witch in a moonlit jungle.