It’s a family of Rs — Rahul (Sanjay Kapoor), Roskija (Shweta Kawaatra), and their son Rishi (Purab Mody). Rahul and Roskija are in the throes of marital discord, and the 20-minute film surfaces the arguments they had, establishing bad blood, in flashbacks — mostly about him wanting sex, mostly about him not fixing the car tyres, mostly about some simmering work-related resentment that he doesn’t have the humility to accept and voice — as Rahul drives his car in fear in the present moment. (The sound of the government tanker watering the plants grown on the road divider dissolves into a flashback about the shower he had, alone, after a fight. It’s all very on-the-nose.) Roskija and Rahul may have been in an accident. He may or may not be responsible. He is definitely drunk.
As the short film opens, we see Rahul watching cricket commentary at home. He is still in his office attire, the shirt is still tucked, the paunch visible below the creases, the whisky (Royal Stag, of course) by his side, sneakers on his feet. The lighting is odd — we can see from the window behind him that it is dark, but a beam of pre-evening warm light strikes from the right of the screen for those golden, whiskey-dappled shadows. He gets a call from Roskija that moves him to rush out the house. There’s a nice inventive sense of economy here — it is door-swing-open to leave the home, cut-to, door-swing-close to start the car.
Directed by Sumit Suresh Kumar, written by Mandhir Sahni, this is a short film that has learned its grammar from feature films — the drama, the flashbacks, the relentless un-subtlety to establish plot-points. It refuses to believe that the short film can have a grammar of its own. Things always need to ‘happen’.
The subtitle, “Couldn’t live with it…. Won’t survive without it”, gives a sense of the gimmicky pitch of the film. Ambiguity isn’t meant to simmer in, and find clues out of, like so many expert short films do, but a sledgehammer stylistic choice. Like a film that ends on an abrupt note, not because it says something inventive about the story or the theme, but precisely because it has nothing to say. A barrenness it tries to cloak with “shock value”.
The performances, like the characters, are unbelievably monotone. Kapoor has a permanent scowl stitched on his face and his voice, and Kawaatra has an unyielding boredom. It is grating to sit through some of their arguments. It is hard to buy into any of this, because the affection that girds such animosity is entirely missing. There is just one scene where Rahul is playing a video game, losing to his son, while Roskija alerts them to lunch. It’s Rishi’s favourite — pasta. They are all excited. Roskija insists they both wash their hands. That’s enough affection, the makers surmised, to have the following scene dragging that love through the mud.