Pratik Gandhi walks like a dad in Shimmy, and it’s such an unusually complicated, subtle yet recognizable body language — to walk stomach first, but without the back arching too perceptibly. Well, for one, he is actually playing a father to 11 year old Raima (Chahat Tewani). But for another, it is a body language that we have seen in a few of Gandhi’s performances — a masculinity that is uncomfortably assertive, overcompensating for some other lacking or anxiety, yet entirely charming.
The 20-minute short film begins with the practice in school for “Annual Day: Bollywood”. The students are shimmying and Raima is uncomfortable. We find out three scenes in, that this is about the changes in her body. Her mother, who was supposed to go bra-shopping with her, has now left her husband and daughter to fend for themselves. There is no one in the film to give her side of the story so her abandonment is etched as villainy on the edges of this narrative. I say edges, because the mother is not central, she is merely instrumental to the central drama.
The arc given to Raima is from being uncomfortable to celebratory. The arc given to her father is from saying “inner wear” to saying “bra”. There is a scene in the shop where they enlist the help of a saleswoman (Bhamini Oza Gandhi) to measure and select the perfect debut bra for Raima. There is some odd flirtation here, something that is as charming as it is awkward, and the tense quality is not just seen but also felt in Jall Cowasji’s shaky camera. But the idea strikes home — that physical spaces for shopping can serve as spaces of unintended intimacy, something we lose when the shopping cart becomes a digital widget, where shopping is no longer about the experience of shopping but only about the items being shopped, a flattening of an experience under the guise of “ease”.
Written and directed by Disha Noyonika Rindani, Shimmy is a sweet ode. It isn’t overly complicated, and thus isn’t overly nuanced about what it wants to say. For the most part, it is Gandhi’s charm, calling Raima “babu” in that overbearing yet affectionate tone, that infuses an emotional heft here. A sweetness that lingers.