In the absence of big-ticket features through most of the year, short films emerged as engaging content for audiences across the spectrum.
Goodbye 2020: The 10 best short films of the year of the pandemic
New Delhi - 24 Dec 2020 4:08 IST
Updated : 4:12 IST
The year 2020 has been a bizarre one that hit filmmaking and the wider entertainment industry, indeed life itself, in so many ways. Amidst the many restrictions and guidelines that were put in place for film shoots, the short-film format proved ideal for filmmakers to explore their creativity in spite of the constraints. Working with skeletal crews, artistes came together and created films on shoestring budgets with oodles of collaborative spirit.
The new theme that emerged this year was, of course, the effects of the lockdown and how people have dealt with the 'new normal'. Several short films explored this theme, focusing on both the humorous and the dangerous aspects of it.
A host of short films also delved into women's concerns. From violence against them (Devi, for instance) to domestic violence (The Relationship Manager) and toxic masculinity (Natkhat) to empowerment of women (Ghar Ki Murgi, B Selvi & Daughters), the list was long.
Here, then, is Cinestaan's selection of the 10 Best Short Films of 2020, in no particular order. If you have missed any of these, make a note to catch them.
A heart-warming film that speaks to our times, this Malayalam short is a comment on how to be a responsible citizen in today’s world. The title of the film means ‘Please Laugh’ and Onnu Chirikkoo shows us that the right attitude is everything.
An aged couple leads a simple life in Kerala, going about its day's chores like clockwork. Although they do not possess much, the old man and woman decide to extend themselves to those who are less fortunate. The short film is a comment on the importance of thinking about others in a time of crisis, even when one may have little to spare.
With a simple yet effective story, minimal dialogues and brilliant performances, this directorial debut of actor Ganapathi is an understated, quiet film that tells us that, sometimes, less is more.
Karishma Dev Dube’s short film follows a headstrong, carefree girl who is jolted into the harsh reality of life through an incident that changes her world irrevocably. Based on a true incident of accidental poisoning that took place in a government school in Bihar, the film traces a heinous incident through the eyes of a child.
Bittu is a naughty girl who loves to sing songs with abandon, perform for bystanders and spend time with her friend. But she isn’t very bright in school. When the other students laugh at her ignorance and her friend joins them in mocking her, Bittu is hurt and refuses to speak to her.
The performances of the children and their world draw you into this film, throwing their tragedy into sharp relief. The film was screened as part of the virtual Dharamshala International Film Festival.
Lijin Jose’s short film without dialogues was made for a 50-hour filmmaking contest organized by the India Film Project. Made on the theme of 'Brave New World', the film invites us to examine what it means to be self-reliant.
A take on patriarchy, the film explores the subtle ways in which women often disappear into the wallpaper while men go about leading their lives, absorbed in their work. In seven minutes, the film transmits the situation in the home, the stuffy atmosphere between the couple and the widening gap between them.
Part cautionary tale, part euphoric exhilaration, the film's story truly comes alive with the performances.
A horrifying look into the effects of climate change, the animated film presents a dystopic future where animals and humans fight for survival.
The film, by animators Upamanyu Bhattacharyya and Kalp Sanghvi, imagines the effects of the shrinking mangroves in the Sunderbans leading to floods in the city of Kolkata. With landmark locales under water, this is an altered world, one where the remaining inhabitants of the city struggle to stay alive. The watery wasteland becomes the site for the unfolding of a strange encounter between tigers and humans, which makes us wonder who is the beast.
In a year when things have changed beyond imagination, it is not hard to imagine that the gloomy vision painted in the film might come true one day. This film by Ghost Animation was also screened at the virtual Dharamshala International Film Festival.
An endearing film about unspoken desire, Arun Fulara’s debut short film Sunday explores sexuality and loneliness through the prism of a middle-aged man.
Kamble goes to the local barber shop every Sunday. What seems like a mundane activity is a lease of life for the protagonist who gets to escape his situation and his oppressive reality, if only for a few minutes. Through stolen glances and fleeting moments, his only recourse for his loneliness is his imagination. The film examines the loneliness of Kamble, who cannot articulate his homosexual desire.
In an understated and rather charming way, Fulara’s film takes us to spaces and concerns not usually examined. It was screened at the virtual Kashish Mumbai International Queer Film Festival and the Bangalore International Film Festival.
Marking the directorial debut of actress Tisca Chopra, Rubaru explores the glamorous world of cinema through the protagonist, Radha. An actress past her prime, Radha has shifted gears to work in theatre. Battling perceptions about ageing women in cinema, harbouring insecurities about her talent and questioned by the media, she feels lost, unsure of herself.
Rubaru comments on the pressures that stars feel, living under the arc lights. In a short span of time, Chopra, who has also written the film, brings the character to life, taking us on her journey to fame and revealing the doubts that lie behind the mask, while also making us painfully aware of the ways in which women are looked at in the film industry.
With this assured debut by Chopra, we hope to see more of her both in front of and behind the camera!
A joyous, affirmative film, B Selvi & Daughters concentrates on woman entrepreneurs and their self-doubt as they venture outside their homes to try and make something of themselves.
B Selvi runs a small saree business and is hesitant about her work. She plays it down and concentrates on playing the more traditional role of the mother. When her daughter realizes her mother’s work has potential and uses her own know-how to help her, the world suddenly opens up for the mother, whose first instinct is to run and hide.
The short film captures the mother-daughter relationship through the doubts and fears that plague B Selvi even as she draws support from her confident, young daughter.
Directed by Shaan Vyas, Natkhat looks at the effect of toxic masculinity on children and examines the ways in which a patriarchal society normalizes certain attitudes towards women.
The protagonist of the film is a boy whose mother sees the ways in which her son is being influenced by the men in the house, picking up disturbing traits and language which he does not fully comprehend. Alarmed by the import of this posturing, she decides to tell him a story and, in the process, make him think about the consequences of his actions.
The film marks Vidya Balan’s first foray as a producer and was part of YouTube's We Are One global film festival.
An intriguing film, this Marathi short directed by Sanat Ganu is a musing on the different people who hold different beliefs and yet manage to co-exist in relative harmony. The title is a reference to the ways in which stories are stitched into the fabric of our lives, making us believe in strange, even fantastical things.
An aspiring writer, Mihir, forsakes his mundane office routine to pursue his dream. Living with his elderly parents, wife and son, he engages with the world views of each of them. His father is a Hindu nationalist, mother is a god-fearing homemaker and wife is an over-enthusiastic environmentalist. Mihir navigates their beliefs and realizes that we need our beliefs to exist in a society together.
In a disturbingly intolerant world that is increasingly punishing people for their views, Arabian Nights urges us to find space for all kinds of views in our hearts, however absurd they may be sometimes. You can catch this film on Cinemapreneur.
A traditional setting, complete with a traditional snack, leads to a very non-traditional outcome in Shubham Yogi’s Kaande Pohe.
A young man visits a young woman's family for the first time in an arranged-marriage set-up. While they are understandably hesitant and reserved in front of their families, they reveal themselves to each other when they get some privacy. The man realizes that the sweet, reserved girl is actually a confident young woman who harbours ambitious dreams for herself.
A rather adorable take on relationships in the arranged-marriage space, this film looks at how the digital realm is altering traditional realms, slowly but surely!
And those that missed out narrowly
Akhil Joseph’s short Kaanayile Madhyapanikal (Drunkards Of Cana) was a great way to start the year. Hilariously funny, the Malayalam thriller, about two drunks who cannot remember where they were last night, is a layered, well-executed film. With brilliant performances and a well-thought-out screenplay, the film takes us to the heart of the village, commenting on its inhabitants and their concerns.
Watchmaker At Time’s End
Another fun film, this time in animation, Watchmaker At Time’s End is quirky from the word go. Shaheen Sheriff’s experiment with the form and sound design has resulted in an engaging sci-fi short that takes a peek at a bizarre future where Time itself has become whimsical. Days and nights occur in random fashion. In the midst of all this is a watchmaker obsessed with making a watch that works in a world that is going to pot. The film is another presentation by Ghost Animation, definitely a studio to watch out for.
What did you think of this list? How many of these films have you seen? What would your Best of 2020 list be? Let us know in the comments below.