Nobody Knows Short Film Review: Highway To Hill, Film Companion
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Director: Jaskunwar Kohli

Genre: Non-fiction

In my first year in Mumbai more than fifteen years ago, I remember being wide-eyed for most of my waking hours. Local trains intrigued me, traffic fascinated me; even a trip to my tuition classes was one where I was determined to discover something new about the city. I built exotic stories in my head around this culture. Every day felt like an adventure. I examined buildings, architecture, the lack of it, the many designs of chaos, co-existence and the sheer pace and necessity of life as if I were a permanent tourist with a one-way ticket.

These days, of course, my eyes rarely observe so fiercely. They’re squarely locked onto my phone screen. My trips across the city are functional. The mere concept of Mumbai still being a treasure chest of moments – forget hidden history and artifacts – is a farfetched one, given our hurry to survive and thrive. I’m not even the kind of wandering optimist who can spend weekends embarking on cultural tours and nature walks. It’s impossible to romanticize the reality we so stubbornly occupy.

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Jaskunwar Kohli’s non-fiction short, Nobody Knows, took me back to those foolish days, even if only for five fable-like minutes. In it, he follows a group of weekend voyagers (“The Klicktorians” Walk) to a very familiar, unassuming landmark in the city’s cramped suburbs. This compact short is a little-known history lesson of sorts, but made endearingly suspenseful – revelation and all – with a keen awareness of the fact that most of us have been in the vicinity of this particular landmark several times without a second thought. It is perhaps only appropriate that the maker, too, isn’t a seasoned local, which by default makes him an explorer.

Nobody Knows becomes the sort of timely reminder for our jaded temperaments to stop for a second, reflect and maybe look around

Most artists, I believe, need to have that irrationally restless streak to discover in them. He still sees things differently, almost in the realm of the magical. That he wants to express, and share, his excitement about the unknown forms the crux of non-fiction documenting. He styles the visual tone of his film – vivid, starched and dream-like – with the wonder of a mind yet to make this environment his “home”.

As a result, Nobody Knows becomes the sort of timely reminder for our jaded temperaments to stop for a second, reflect and maybe look around. As products of the same urbanization that this landmark defies, it’s hard not to notice the irony of its location.

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There’s a telling image towards the end, of this natural “secret” in all its glory – only the third of its kind in this world. Heck, in all time. While the other two stand independent of civilization, Mumbai’s pride reluctantly occupies the space amid a typical cluster of unruly high-rise flats. It’s almost as if the concrete structures “allowed” – just about – the earth to have a say. I wonder if the windows overlooking its splendor truly care about its significance.

This shot alone represents the very Indian geography of my adult mind: the last remnants of a little hope and innocence and imagination tucked away within a cluster of ugly modern-day brain mechanics.

Watch Nobody Knows here:

Rating:   star

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