Director: Kartik Singh
Cast: Maniesh Paul
Kartik Singh’s Black Briefcase is what one might call “terrorist porn”. No matter what point you start watching such films at, the same action is being stretched through fancy camerawork, slow-motion and a jarring background score. A man on a bus remains a man on the bus till the end of eternity. It is virtually impossible to be in the dark about the film’s intentions; time, space, emotions and an overall lack of subtlety are mercilessly elongated by bunching them under the mainstream ‘masala’ trope umbrella.
It makes no difference if you miss half of the film – the idea remains horribly one-dimensional, and the next half will go about exploiting a moment that should have been done away with in the very first minute. In this rather unimaginatively titled 16-minute short, the first 8 minutes are spent depicting how a bearded Muslim man with a briefcase bomb is struggling with his own conscience on a bus ride to destroy Delhi’s crowded Chandni Chowk area. He sweats, he walks slowly, he thinks, and life around him suddenly feels louder and more deliberate than ever.
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The next 8 minutes are spent depicting how terrorists are humans, too, apparently. But they can’t afford to be indecisive – this guy is the worst possible candidate. He sees an unsuspecting mother and her baby – cue ‘torn teddy bear’ image after the blast. He thinks of his own mother, who left him with a line (“There are two types of people in life – you have to choose which one you want to become”) that suggests she thought she had given birth to a superhero. Even the beeps of the lego-style bomb timer are inconsistent. The pace varies, as if it were constantly in cardiac arrest because of the quality of production accommodating it.
Heaven forbid, whoever declared that storytelling is all about the compression of time? Half of Bollywood’s directors expand time as if it were the currency of modern-day patriotism. Some have the gall to do it in “short” films, no less. There is nothing new or introspective about such childish displays of communal violence. If anything, it pushes Hindi cinema back a few years, nullifying the success of well-written movies like Mulk and Raazi. In fact Mulk was made precisely to battle the mindsets behind films like Black Briefcase. The makers here might feel like they are humanizing the “All terrorists are Muslims” narrative, but theirs is just a crass, tone-deaf milking of a national mood that continues to enable rubbish filmmaking as socially conscious cinema. Also, briefcases (and white Maruti vans) are so passé.