Dobara Alvida, With Swara Bhasker And Gulshan Devaiah, Is A Cheesy Short That Wastes A Decent Premise, Film Companion

Directed by: Shashank S Singh
Written by: Shashank S Singh
Cinematography: Deepak Nambiar
Edited by: Manas Mittal
Starring: Swara Bhasker, Gulshan Devaiah, Swapnil Kotriwar
Streaming on: YouTube (Large Short Films)

Corny title aside, I like the premise of Dobara Alvida, a short film that brings two ex-lovers together in a shared Uber ride. In essence, an algorithm forces two people to confront the heartbreak of being human. He is in Mumbai for a work trip, she is on her way to a party. After the initial awkwardness and small talk, he asks her: “How are you?” When she sees him carrying her favourite sweets, she playfully accuses him of stalking her. They are in fact stalking their own memories of togetherness.

The conversation is nicely designed – it starts careful and nostalgic, gets heated and intense, before ending in a flurry of emotion. It helps that both the actors have such distinct movie voices. Close your eyes and you can hear Swara Bhasker and Gulshan Devaiah in a crowd of feelings. As a result, this brief exchange also adopts the rhythm of a three-act relationship: they seem to be falling in love, clashing hard and breaking up all over again. Most soulmates meet for the first time, these two meet for the last time. The writing does a decent job of providing a snapshot – and hinting at the history – of the equation they once shared, without flashbacks. The ride itself doubles up as the closure that most ex-partners don’t have the luxury of getting. It’s the situation we all imagine and practise in our heads – a chance meeting spanning just about enough time to release and resolve pent-up resentments.

The third person in the car, the driver (Swapnil Kotriwar), is a sweet touch. His personality is the sum of all the passengers he has ferried – and, dare I say, he might have made for a far more fascinating short film. What Dobara Alvida achieves till its final third, while staying grounded and simple, is ruined by a brooding title song marking the climax. It’s a silly, sappy move. Suddenly the moment turns into a movie, their chat turns into a derivation of experiences rather than an experience itself. Even the two actors look totally out of place here, visibly ill at ease with the abrupt change of treatment. And what’s more, the flashbacks – of dialogue and shots from only five minutes ago – inevitably arrive. Another ten minutes and Emraan Hashmi might have jumped out from the backseat and narrated the rest.

Early on, when the two begin to rake up past issues, the woman mentions that she lost her independence while she was with him. Her decisions were never hers alone, and his influence – from friends to jobs – cast a shadow over her life. Their compatibility is called into question. The spirit of the scene brings to mind a similar late-night drive from Atul Mongia’s excellent short film, Awake, where a wife reclaims her individualism in the most morbid circumstances possible. And the physicality of Dobara Alvida – a ride-sharing app uniting two “strangers” in nocturnal Mumbai – is reminiscent of Sumi Mathai’s Detour, a charming short starring Vikrant Massey and Sayani Gupta as co-passengers. Both these shorts are miles ahead, not so much in terms of execution as tonal consistency.

Mumbai in the dead of night is an existential genre of its own – a space where miracles collide and human heads are afforded the silence to hear each other. The empty streets make for a city suspended between life and making a living: an opportunity for not just people but also stories to make their own destiny. If only the makers of Dobara Alvida had managed to keep their Bollywood in their pants, the film might have felt like more than just the narrative equivalent of a doomed one-night stand.

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