New Delhi, 12 Jun 2019 9:00 IST
Ravi Shankar Kaushik’s aptly titled short film employs the metaphor of a mousetrap to present a protagonist who takes control of her own destiny.
What happens when a woman’s agency and desire are denied in order to conform to patriarchy? Some bend, some break, but a few manage to seize control and become mistresses of their own destiny. Such is the protagonist of Ravi Shankar Kaushik’s captivating short film, aptly titled Chuhedaani (Mousetrap).
The film tells of Meena (Bhoomika Meena), a young village girl who has recently been married to Sanjay (Vibhav Srivastava), an abusive man bent on exerting his will upon his helpless wife. He is also the caretaker of an old, decaying house. While Meena tries to come to terms with her miserable life, fate presents an opportunity when the lecherous landlord arrives.
Shot at a real location, the film captures the interiors of the rat-infested house in striking detail with its peeling paint, crumbling staircase and perceptive glimpses of life in a small town, bringing alive the milieu in which the story is set. The power dynamic between the couple and the employer-employee relationship are mirror images as Sanjay cowers in front on the landlord much as his authority, in turn, makes Meena cower before him.
The metaphor of the mousetrap is cleverly deployed as, caught between a rock and a hard place, Meena hedges her bets and decides to take control of her destiny.
A self-taught filmmaker, Kaushik astutely captures minuscule details of life in a small town and employs them to push the narrative forward. The lure of a barfi (sweetmeat) in getting Meena to attend an informative health camp, or the clever deployment of the means at one’s disposal to mete out just rewards, are examples. The film also seamlessly stitches various concerns together with a health awareness camp becoming a trigger for Meena’s machination.
There is a hint of predictability in the general tenor of Meena’s actions despite the filmmaker’s best efforts to keep things as startling as possible. In part this stems from the fact that in recent times, several short films have explored women protagonists who decide to take matters into their own hands and Chuhedaani follows that path.
Notwithstanding this minor detail, the film is an enjoyable watch with a well-written script and compelling performances by Bhoomika Meena and Vibhav Srivastava.
Chuhedaani was screened at the 14th Habitat Film Festival at New Delhi's India Habitat Centre on 18 May 2019.
Related topicsHabitat Film Festival
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