Director: Victor Mukherjee
Cast: Rajev Paul, Mohini Shimpi
For most part, To A New Beginning is an awkward film. Not just the characters – an older man awkwardly meeting a younger woman at a café as part of what is presumably an arranged marriage scenario – and their words, but even their expressions and performances. It has an awkward student-filmy title, and some very awkward moments: the kind where you can imagine the director urging his actors to be, well, more awkward.
Samar (Paul) and Sia (Shimpi) don’t look very genuine either. They seem like the types who’re putting on a painstaking façade; it definitely won’t be as “formal” after the wedding. They are trying too hard. You wonder if it’s just because the camera is on them or because their eyes are on each other. Either way, pre-wedding meetings are not very cinematic; they make for uncomfortable viewing, tearing us between cursing our own perverse voyeurism and disliking the concept of “fixed” partnerships.
Victor Mukherjee’s seven-minute film – as overcome as it is by its inherent averageness – is smarter than it looks. Not to mention the progressive message it advocates in context of the society, and the times, this film is based in – in the sort of naively sweet way that makes you wish the treatment was more sophisticated and perceptive.
Yet, Victor Mukherjee’s seven-minute film – as overcome as it is by its inherent averageness – is smarter than it looks. Just as I was too busy rolling my eyes, the last ten seconds surprised me. It made me rewind and look back on some of the more ambiguous lines. Not to mention the progressive message it advocates in context of the society, and the times, this film is based in – in the sort of naively sweet way that makes you wish the treatment was more sophisticated and perceptive.
Ironically, the stilted conversation lowered expectations to a level that perhaps heightened the “idea” behind it. These few seconds almost lend perspective to the awkwardness that precedes them, though it doesn’t quite justify the amateur craft and generic tone at hand. Not least the omnipresent elevator-music-level background score – a prime indicator of untrained sensibilities tackling a refined subject.
However, it’s 2017, and it has been a rather bleak year for Hindi cinema. Sometimes, this kind of relentless mediocrity has a silver lining; it leaves you unprepared for – and therefore sensitive and more thankful towards – a sudden jolt of sincerity. Even something as fleeting and temporary as a surprise acquires a sense of entirety, and a pleasant reaction. Again, I’m wary about forgiving the process because of the result. But I’ll admit I didn’t see it coming; I was so fussed about yet another short film ending quickly that I did not anticipate a “story” to begin.