Director: Parijat Joshi
Cast: Divyenndu, Ishteyak Khan, Inderpal Singh, Vijay Kumar Dogra
Streaming On: ZEE5
Fatafat is a familiar-looking short that operates more as a lesson-of-the-day cartoon in context of its simplistic theme. It revolves around the quintessential movie “loser” – a young call-centre employee named Kumar Vishwaas (Divyenndu), down on luck, talent, common sense and everything in between. A solution arrives in the form of a hustling salesman who saddles him with shady magic pills. “Have them only when it’s really urgent,” the man advises him. But Kumar is the kind of big-city struggler for whom everything is a crisis – a malfunctioning TV set during a cricket match, a girlfriend taking her own sweet time to reply to his Whatsapp messages, and maybe even the torrid summer weather. It’s the cumulation of these mini-frustrations that has turned him into a mental last-bencher. The round black pill genuinely works; he becomes calmer, and things begin to change. But his job is what he really needs them for. Don’t we all.
If he were a ‘90s kid, he’d have known the taste of these pills better. But Hindi movie introverts are often designed as special little lost humans who seem to be experiencing the world for the first time after escaping a dark basement. Their body language is more deliberate, so that they stand out as singular movie characters rather than crippled personalities. They behave more like children than adults: a “look” that often fails to walk the thin red line between curiosity and naivety. Kumar, too, is one of them.
Fatafat doesn’t say anything new. Or even if it says something old, there’s nothing new about the way it does so. We’ve seen all kinds of everyman stories in which a simpleton protagonist comes of age once he realizes that life is more of a psychological, rather than physical, battle. In fact, at 18 minutes, it kind of stretches a Tinkle-comic-strip-level premise, mostly because the film wants to afford its fine lead actor, Divyenndu, a chunk of screentime to capitalize on his newfound Mirzapur popularity. But this role fails to challenge, or even highlight, him. Fatafat feels like a montage of his sullen expressions; you can almost sense the director asking him to express “surprise,” “sadness,” “hopelessness,” “desperation,” “epiphany,” in isolation in a separate frame as reaction shots, rather than in perspective of his character’s short journey. However, I like that Kumar is made to be a call-centre employee. If there’s one profession that forces you to digest rejection, rudeness and a general beating of confidence on an hourly basis, it’s this. His meekness, then, is not entirely inherent; being a verbal punching-bag further drives him to the level of (stupid) desperation that he resorts to.
One does learn the most unexpected life lessons on buses and trains these days, and the prospect is rather romantic for those transfixed by the charming nothingness of Indian-middle-class cinema. But surely, the time has come for a more evolved narrative than that of the loser getting his office mojo back? Or the mandatory “it’s all in the head” eureka moment? Even Rocket Singh, the ultimate manifestation of misguided white-collar underdogs, has a more complex digestive system.