Review

Aasra review: Minimum runtime, maximum entertainment in Tom Alter’s last short film

Release Date: 2017 / 20min


Cinestaan Rating

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Blessy Chettiar

Suspense, flowing dialogues, the charming presence of Alter, sample characters, the setting — all come together beautifully to make this film thoroughly enjoyable.

Short film Aasra by budding fimmaker Ranjeet Jha, an associate of filmmaker Nagesh Kukunoor, was screened as a last-minute addition to the Tom Alter homage at the 48th International Film Festival of India (IFFI) 2017 in Panaji, Goa.

Jha told Cinestaan.com that Aasra was Alter’s last short film and was shot in May, just five months before he died in September, and was screened for the public for the first time.

On a thunderous, rainy night in Mumbai, the house of Colonel Poonawala (Alter) becomes a safe house for stranded city folk. The old man is reserved, and hesitantly opens his doors to strangers. An inquisitive LIC agent among them senses that the colonel is hiding something. Every time the sound of a thud emanates from the bedroom, the colonel goes in and returns outside, not mentioning a word to his guests.

The air of suspense is palpable, and the audience tends to speculate along with the characters what could be in the room. The colonel tells them the story of his late wife, whose body lay in the room for many weeks before the neighbours discovered it while he was away on duty.

Jha engages the viewer, as the colonel tells the story of feeling his wife’s presence in the room. You want to believe him and not believe him at the same time. His guests are in a similar dilemma.

As night falls, the stranded guests retire. When they wake up, they find their valuables missing. Upon searching, they find that the colonel is not in his bedroom. Where did he go? Who stole the valuables? What was happening in the bungalow?

Alter gives a delightfully reserved performance throughout the film. The last few minutes reveal a completely different ‘colonel’, one that puts a wide smile on your face.

In a short runtime of 20 minutes, Jha manages to entertain the viewer completely. Suspense, flowing dialogues, the charming presence of Alter, sample characters, the setting — all come together beautifully to make this film thoroughly enjoyable.

Jha’s debut attempt is worth a round of applause. We can look forward to more films from the director.

 

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