Director: Siddharth Sinha
Cast: Kalki Koechlin
On its own, sans symbolism and context, The Job might come across as a tragic account of an OCD-afflicted French expat (Kalki Koechlin) struggling to adapt to the apathy of Mumbai’s professional environment. There is also a tinge of schizophrenia – the woman is unable to distinguish between fantasy and reality. She pours milk for an imaginary cat, works in an empty office, tends to an invisible mother and answers to a non-existent boss – responding to their sounds, zoning out and operating on the brink of delusion.
But this short film’s true ambition relies on our willingness to look past its creepy staging. Dig a little deeper, and the shots of her ritualistically washing her hands and disruptive visions of a hit-and-run accident tell us the story of a mentally damaged Lady Macbeth stuck in 2018. It isn’t the most straightforward of present-day adaptations – but for some reason, it’s the most likely. Urban alienation is a legitimate emotion in big cities, and one that can manifest through these more cinematically inclined conditions. OCD is known to equate morality to hygiene, which is why some of the more famous movie characters suffering from this disorder (example: Howard Hughes, in The Aviator) are essentially portraits of admission and remorse – they scrub their hands, hoping to physically remove the sins (imaginary dirt, blood) from their fingers to manufacture their own tiny oasis of redemption.
The conscience is, after all, a body’s final frontier. In this film, we see the girl in somewhat of a psychological maze, ensconced in the circularity of her misconduct. Madness, a condition that cannot explicitly be seen, is cinema’s most provocative visual form. Its depictions are, by nature, optical exercises in translation; that she works as a translator herself may therefore not be a complete coincidence.
Director Siddharth Sinha designs his film in a way that intends for us to feel a bit disoriented, impatient and even neurotic. We see and hear the things at the woman’s pace and volume. It’s like Inception without the conceptuality of it. Most filmmakers revel in trying to make viewers experience what their characters are going through – in that aspect, a dreamscape is a limitless playground of audiovisual permutations. It’s this kind of inclusive insanity that Sinha gets a little carried away with. Yet, he and lead actress Kalki (it’s hard to imagine anyone else taking this leap of faith) commit to a “feeling” – and hence, a story with no beginning, end or easy answers. As a result, The Job is difficult to understand. It is even harder to hear. But then, so is the human mind.