Pressure Cooker Short Film Review: The Pressure of Nostalgia, Film Companion

FiDirector: Heena D’Souza

Cast: Pallavi Joshi, Mukul Chadda, Rahul Bagga

It’s always nice to see Pallavi Joshi back on screen. There’s something undeniably pleasant about her – especially in this day and age, where so many starry middle-aged actresses are making comebacks in author-backed roles that rely specifically on their advanced life experience. It’s only appropriate that she appears here, as a middle-class Mumbai housewife from the 1990s – a decade that had introduced us to her fledging television career. It’s to director Heena D’Souza and writer Paavni Wadhwan’s credit that they eschew the fast-paced complications of noisy modernism in favour of an atmosphere that somewhat thrives on Joshi’s old-world charm.

It is also to their credit that her husband is played by Mukul Chadda, an actor who I’ve always believed deserves more mainstream exposure than ad films and bit roles. There is something equally pleasant and good-natured about him – an attribute that in no small measure contributes to the essence of the sweet, understated Pressure Cooker.


The film depends much on the way we perceive his character – usually the callous husband with zero redemptive traits and an ability to overlook the loneliness of an unsatisfied wife. Ritesh Batra’s The Lunchbox even excelled at circling the monogamous Indian housewife’s conflicts, along with her inbuilt defense mechanism to the evolving (and cinematic) perspectives of morality. Another prototype would be that of Adil Hussain’s breakout role as Sridevi’s patronizing husband in English Vinglish.

Except, the defining domestic element – the presence of children – isn’t a contributing factor in this short. A childless couple – or at least the depiction of a couple in the absence of their kids’ routines – completely changes the social fabric of a story. It is a necessity here, because the careless husband becomes a harmful husband when the added responsibility of a family is in question. Chadda’s gait therefore turns this man into more of a scatterbrained, stubborn but well-meaning and harmless partner who is probably a better human being than husband – a “flaw” that many heroines in modern-day Indian cinema are inclined to reject, but also an imperfection that many like Swati (Joshi) choose to understand.


For her, the simple act of buying a new pressure cooker might have exposed his misplaced conservativeness. A clue would be his God-fearing nature (depicted by prayers every morning) – an act that is meant to help us believe he is not deliberately insensitive towards her plight. He is merely clumsy, and forever a work in progress. As a result, there is an unmistakable sense of care in her behavior towards him; this is clearly an equation in which he, like many men around the globe, has married someone who can be more of a mother to “correct” his boyish haphazardness. It doesn’t mean he is a terrible person, and it certainly doesn’t mean that she can’t contain her growing frustrations.

In these times, there is always the temptation of introducing a rebellious “Zindagi” soundtrack and glorifying the spunk of a woman who dares to break free. At times, even at the cost of the cultural nuances of the narrative they occupy.

But life is not, after all, always a film. Especially not one with romantic songs like the ones Swati prefers peppering her monotony with through her kitchen radio. Pressure Cooker does a good job of reminding us that an ending can be happy, even when it respects the inherent traditionalism of its environment – without catering to rousing public sentiment.

Watch Pressure Cooker here:

Rating:   star

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