Director: Ritesh Menon
Writer: Sharanya Rajgopal
Cast: Nakuul Mehta, Sanaya Irani
Ved and Arya is the kind of short that, at first glance, feels like a Terribly Tiny Tale blown up into a 12-minute film. Every moment is tailored to arrive at a final twist which, to be honest, bears the simplicity of children’s fiction. We’ve seen the premise before – two people talking about something that doesn’t turn out to be what we think they’re talking about. Two minutes in, you realise they’re brother (Nakuul Mehta) and sister (Sanaya Irani), and another eight minutes in you realise that their little exchange – about her new “lover” – was always challenging our perceptions of (heterosexual) romance.
Yet, Ved and Arya deserves credit for how it’s composed. Far too often, I’ve seen conversational shorts (example: Rogan Josh) try too hard to hide hints that are supposed to belatedly dawn upon the viewer. The writing tends to be self-conscious to build an invisible aura of suspense meant to be punctured in the final seconds. Here, however, naturalism is built into the moment: Nakuul Mehta sounds a lot like early Hrithik Roshan (Lakshya, first half), but doesn’t overdo the urbane drawl-coolness while reacting to her confessions. His eyes are softer than his mannerisms. Sanaya Irani, too, proves that famous TV actors need not be restricted to “television acting” – there’s a sense of craft in them that not enough eyes are conditioned to examine. Arya is a tad anxious and unsure and even dramatic, but it comes with the territory. When Ved jokes about her romantic track record, there’s a reason she second-guesses herself (“Am I going too fast? Is this right?”) and worries that her brother might be judging her. She is, in a way, used to being judged – it’s a default reaction she has probably elicited all her life.
And then there are the nice little touches that most shorts might have oversold through either the framing or the screenplay. Ved and Arya opens with Ved, a husband, putting his baby to sleep while his wife is presumably working or away. He heads to the kitchen (of a strangely American-style home) to eat his dinner, which he seems to have cooked on his own. This is only a silent routine till Arya arrives with a bottle of wine, desperate to discuss her new dating-app experience. The terms “liberal” or “modern” are not mentioned; their chat hints at their personalities instead. Arya wants the kind of stability that Ved has with his wife – a desire that acquires a different and almost-sad meaning by the end of the film. And it’s smart to have an infant in the house. The symbolism isn’t gimmicky, given that Ved, too, is like a trendy parent to his sister, and also given that Arya’s new relationship – unconventional and underseen – is at an infant stage of acceptance not only in her life but also in Indian society.
The last shot of the film, in which Ved observes his little sister in her own happy bubble, is sweet – because, like the chat, it makes for the kind of intangible resolution that no amount of one-line wordplay can evoke. If not overcooked, the flesh is always juicier than the bone.