Director: Rohit Mittal
Writer: Akshendra Mishra
Cast: Neetu, Vikram Kochhar, Faezeh Jalali, Divya Jagdale
Chosen Few, a new TVF Spotlight short film, is based on the real-life story of a brave teenage girl who, after being rescued from an underage sex-trafficking racket, helps the Mumbai police locate her tormentors and extract the rest of her trapped friends. The film is made in consultation with the International Justice Mission. As a result, it wears the condensed look of a rushed Public Service Announcement (PSA) – its 21 minutes is, in fact, not nearly enough to capture the slow-burning mechanics of an entire underground ecosystem.
Chosen Few opens with an inspector (Vikram Kochhar) and a social worker (Faezeh Jalali) raiding a shady hotel with a team of cops, but failing to nab the kingpins who escape through the backdoor. They do however manage to rescue one of the girls (Neetu), after which the rest of the film rapidly builds up to their next and final raid. Faces flash by, urgent looks are exchanged, no shot lasts for more than three seconds, and the background score is convinced that this is a watered-down, neon-lit Nicholas Winding Refn production.
The rhythm of the raids is nicely choreographed, the performances are adequate, there’s a sense of “genre” about the atmospherics – but surely there has to be more to the filmmaking than the clipped social significance of its premise?
I understand that the narrative – breathless, blurry, desperate – is designed as a microcosm of a larger culture. But Chosen Few is constructed with the choppy pace of a film trailer. In another sense, it plays out like a feature-length procedural that has already reached its 21-minute climax after overlooking the first 75 world-building minutes of the story. There is no time for the viewer to develop any sort of empathetic connection with the events on screen. Blink and you might miss a two-month timeline, the girl’s rehabilitation, nervous undercover agents, a hurried interrogation montage and a gimmicky cross-cutting sequence featuring a judge signing off on the mission and the actual mission (it saves time, you see).
The rhythm of the raids is nicely choreographed, the performances are adequate, there’s a sense of “genre” about the atmospherics – but surely there has to be more to the filmmaking than the clipped social significance of its premise? I can’t help but imagine that the makers have much more in their tank. On a better day, maybe they might show us the rest of the film. For now, this is all we must make do with. Consequently, Chosen Few is guilty of becoming the epidemic it tries to uncover. Everyone in the film is reduced to a body hired to offer a brief sense of respite – an unfortunate trait that reveals the spiritual core of human trafficking.