Director: Saurabh Varma
Cast: Nandish Singh, Rohit Khurana, Nazia Davison
There exists a certain breed of film directors who remain convinced they’re crafting a thriller far smarter than it actually is. They construct sequences with the air of an ambitious digital-age parent attempting to read an old-fashioned bedtime story to puzzled children.
Every jump cut, funky transition and sepia-tinted flashback screams out for attention. That’s not to say the story doesn’t merit our interest; it’s just that the style overwhelms the content’s substance.
Saurabh Varma is one of these filmmakers. Earlier this year, as I watched his Man-on-the-Ledge-isque feature-length thriller, 7 Hours To Go, I couldn’t fathom his urge to overcomplicate a fairly innovative plot with needlessly decorative devices. Split screens, shady-looking characters, red herrings, hamming actors, bizarre filters, jazzy tech whataboutery – a decent film was drowned out by its own voice.
Varma’s short film, Girl in Red, is proof that he cannot be exorcised of this disease. As a result, a genuinely interesting story-within-story exercise gets convoluted, and all we’re left with is a bit of a patronizing headache.
A genuinely interesting story-within-story exercise gets convoluted, and all we’re left with is a bit of a patronizing headache
The first few minutes are foreboding. We’re introduced to the typical, done-to-death cinematic-stereotype of a “famous author” – yet another chain-smoking, intellectually masturbating, voiceover-fetishizing, stubble-loving, porn-obsessed imp (Nandish Singh) glorifying the much-abused writer’s block phase.
I’m a writer, and perhaps I should now doubt my pedigree because I don’t smoke or do drugs. In any case, this chap is looking for a new story, with a tortured air about him. His voiceover and actual dialogues seem to have been leveled at the same frequency, further confusing the hats off us. He comes across an intriguing colony fix-it-all, a garbage collector (Rohit Khurana; too deliberate) who looks like he is an out-of-work IIPM student.
They smoke weed together, and randomly drop cuss words because this is the internet where nothing can be censored. Here, they exchange mysterious tales about a girl and a statue (separate entities – what were you thinking?). It all builds up to the twist, which, if you’re attentive enough, shouldn’t really surprise you. I wasn’t attentive enough, of course, because I was distracted by every frame’s purported cleverness.
Hence, by crook and not hook, I was surprised – which is perhaps what the storyteller(s) wanted to achieve in first place. How they got there is equally important though, and I don’t really care for the method.
Girl in Red isn’t a bad film. But often, this averageness is more disappointing because of what could have been
Perhaps if Varma tones down on the purpose and lets his ideas do the talking – and he does have a conceptual mind – we could see better, sober films. Girl in Red isn’t a bad film. But often, this averageness is more disappointing because of what could have been. The writer has every right to be miffed with the director in this case.