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Cinestaan Curates: Atmanirbhar is a joyous affirmation of feminine self-determination

Release Date: 23 Nov 2020

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Sukhpreet Kahlon

Lijin Jose's short film was made for a 50-hour filmmaking contest on the theme 'Brave New World'.

At a time when we are being told as citizens of the country to be self-reliant or ‘atmanirbhar’, Lijin Jose’s short film explores what it truly means to be so, albeit with a touch of humour. The short film sans dialogue was made for a 50-hour filmmaking contest organized by India Film Project. The theme of the contest was 'Brave New World'.

Atmanirbhar portrays a workaholic (Jose) whose phone seems to be an extension of himself. As the message tone of his phone punctuates his every move, his partner (Archana Vasudev) dutifully performs her domestic tasks in the home. She waits for him to interact or engage with her in some way but he simply flits from one screen to the other, not registering her presence or even lifting his head from the screen. That is, till she decides to communicate in the only way that he will understand!

The film's atmosphere relies on the expressions and movements of Vasudev, who is also the scriptwriter, and Jose. It is the small gestures that speak volumes in this almost seven-minute-long film. He reaches out to get his cup of tea but is distracted by the phone, and we understand this as being the usual routine as she toys with the hourglass waiting for him, and watches episodes of Fleabag. The spatial arrangement of the couple further symbolizes the simmering disharmony and the emotional abyss widening between them. 

Jose’s film is a delightful take on the idea of self-reliance and a cautionary tale for men who ignore their partners! The gobsmacked expression on the man’s face at the end is simply priceless.

Jose made his Malayalam feature film debut with Friday (2012), starring Fahadh Faasil, which was followed by Law Point (2014). He has also made the acclaimed documentary 8½ Intercuts: Life and Films of KG George (2017) on the life and work of the titular filmmaker who made groundbreaking Malayalam films.

Atmanirbhar was released on 25 October on YouTube.

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