Long Story Short: Baj Gai Seeti is a Playful Ode to an Ancient Trope

In Long Story Short, we point you in the direction of short films that deserve a watch
Long Story Short: Baj Gai Seeti is a Playful Ode to an Ancient Trope

Director: Dheeraj Jindal

Writer: Sumit Ghildiyal

Cast: Gulshan Grover, Manu Rishi Chadha, Mayur More, Alam Khan, Priitamm Jaiswal

I’m not a fan of stories that feature older generations taking the moral high ground and teaching ‘reckless’ kids a lesson. These reek of the baap-baap-hota-hai syndrome – a cultural superiority complex rooted in not just senior entitlement but also post-Partition slang, evident in the way Indian sports fans sledge their Pakistani and Bangladeshi counterparts. “Baap baap hota hai” is the punchline of Baj Gai Seeti, too, a 28-minute short film directed by Dheeraj Jindal (The School Bag, Indian Predator: The Diary of a Serial Killer). But unlike other recent homegrown narratives, Baj Gai Seeti presents a playful subversion of this theme.

At first glance, this isn’t apparent. What’s visible is a simple-to-a-fault story. Two veteran pahaadi thieves decide to pull off one final heist before hanging up their small-time boots. On the night, however, they find themselves in the awkward position of having to host three lost engineering students at the house they’re robbing. When the students knock on the door, desperately seeking warmth in the bitter cold of the Himalayas, one thief advises the other: “Let them in; this can be our penance for all the sins we have committed”.

This penance, though, assumes a different language altogether when the adults discover that the students are not all that innocent – they lie to a parent, go for a joyride, deceive the police, flaunt their girlfriends’ photos and even have a bottle of whisky on them. A parental instinct kicks in for the older thief who, instead of lecturing them, becomes the lesson they sorely need. By being their own wretched selves, the adults remind the teens of what they risk becoming. The men might have a warped way of saving three young strangers from turning into them, but it’s almost as if the thieves are also time-traveling, revisiting the past to prevent themselves from embracing a bleak future. The film, after all, opens with the adults regretting their own burglary career – one of such slim pickings that they settled for the trademark of cooking and dining in the homes they break into. It’s an unobtrusive moral touch in a film that, depending on the viewer, cuts deeper than it is perhaps designed to.

A few quibbles aside – like the film’s sense of exposition (why would one thief ask another about the cooking habit so late into their career?); the track of two bumbling cops; the flimsy stereotyping of the teens – Baj Gai Seeti is essentially a comedy with the heart of a drama. The title alludes to the whistles of a pressure cooker: or, in this case, the need for humans to find a sort of emotional or spiritual release before it’s too late. The casting only reiterates the theme of the film. Having actors like Gulshan Grover and Manu Rishi Chadha as the thieves – one famed for retro villainy and the other known for playing the tragicomic hustler – is smart. (Grover, in particular, exudes a gentle depth that mainstream Hindi cinema might have been richer for, had it not pigeonholed him as the hammy baddie). Watching them reflect on their thankless burglary career is like watching them reflect on their own commercial acting careers – the mountains, just like the industries that have appropriated their talent, are bare.

Ditto for the casting of Kota Factory’s Mayur More and Alam Khan as two of the students, whose fictional characters are predestined to be defined by the pressures of the academic rat race. These extra dimensions reveal Baj Gai Seeti as a short that reframes the vintage reading of generational conflict. The situations are amusing, but function as a gateway to a larger truth. The kids are not alright, but neither are the adults – a sly nod to the hypocrisies of Indian traditionalists who rarely practice what they preach.

Related Stories

No stories found.