Article Hindi

Little package, big impact: Habitat 2019 short film segment works best for those with busy schedules


The short film section has been attracting a goodly crowd of busy students, parents and office-goers who would otherwise have had to miss the festival.

A view of the crowd at the 14th Habitat Film Festival. Photo: Habitat Film Club

Yatharth Vohra

Four or five short films, all in under 90 minutes, have been premiered each day at the continuing 14th Habitat Film Festival, bringing in a huge crowd of busy students, parents, and office-goers who would otherwise have had to miss the festival.

Very few get through a painfully long feature film without dozing off. Add in arthouse or avant garde and the abstraction pushes one into slumber faster. Unless one knows patience and has faith in the film, one is not very likely to be excited, despite finding the premise interesting. Besides, most of the younger generation's film enthusiasts barely have time to make it to such screenings.

The 14th Habitat Film Festival took care of these needs with its short film category — a complete package of refreshing acting, unique cinematography, uncharted emotional territories, and exceptional storytelling, all in under an hour and a half.

To illustrate the mind-boggling rollercoaster one ends up riding in a single sitting, I watched the 22 May lineup of four remarkable films.

It began with Bagli Talkies (2018, Hindi), a film personifying the nag of nostalgia by depicting the lament of a single-screen cinema owner. To go from a time when he was the rebel for opening a cinema hall to a time when he became the face of an ignored tradition, the cinema hall, proves too much for him to deal with.

Constantly confronted by the shortcomings of his love, he decides to give up (which, in my eyes, was simply, yet sadly, a step taken by a man losing his prestige). His passion led to an inability to let go and come to terms with reality. The ending came too soon, and this, perhaps, is what shocked the audience more.

It was followed by Herman (2018, English) which essentially was 10 minutes of camerawork in a life of quiet isolation. An old man leads a mundane life; his hunch, snail pace, yellow nails, and pallid face convey the passage of his prime, but, more strikingly, his refusal to interact with others conveys his sense of fear — the constant fear of indifference. He secretly gawks at the teens dancing and has run-ins with people near the mailbox but never acknowledges them, perhaps presuming that his ungainliness would bother them.

The film takes a turn when a persistent young teacher tries to make conversation with him. The old man is motivated to reciprocate. This first move allows him to tap-dance with the considerate girl and break the monotony of his life. A considerable part of the audience, being young, is never able to understand the complexities found in the silence of age, but this film helped one get a peek into it.

The third film of the evening features familiar faces from Hindi cinema — a typical middle-class mother-father duo with a very atypical relationship, the one that heads towards divorce. The wife isn't submissive but assertive, the husband isn't brutal with limbs but with words.

Katran, The Unsaid (2019, Hindi) cracked up the audience more than I would like to admit, with retorts Indians are accustomed to, taunts we hear at home, and arguments we witness each day. The woman is made to feel highly undesirable, and the husband is accused of putting up unnecessary fights.

Absent children call to dissuade them, the lawyer ultimately agrees after a little snooping, and soon they may part ways after 36 years of a distant marriage. Back home, they hear a thud, and both rush out from their separate rooms to check whether the other is safe, only to look each other in the eye and realize that despite all the disputes, one can't just throw away such a long relationship and the beautiful journey with it.

The last film featured a jolly librarian working in an old library. Kitaab (2018, Hindi) is presented in gaps of half a decade — with the crowd at the library thinning successively. Much like the first film, it, too, deals with the unchallengeable faith people have in the eternity of a particular form of entertainment.

The man can feel the charm of the library slipping away and leaves no stone unturned trying to preserve it, but alas! even the last woman got addicted to her phone. It explores themes of desperation, passion and delusion, and the audience doesn't even notice the absence of dialogues.

If a 75-minute session can be this enriching and fulfilling, would you really want to miss it?

Related topics

Habitat Film Festival