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Cinestaan Curates: Custody is an intense, clever, emotional whodunnit that takes you by surprise

Release Date: 14 May 2021

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Sukhpreet Kahlon

Ambiecka Pandit’s short film is masterfully executed and keeps you hooked till the end.

Life has a way of blindsiding us and in today’s pandemic-ridden times, this is truer than ever. Exploring this thought, Ambiecka Pandit’s short film Custody unfolds over a regular day but with unexpected ramifications.

It seems like an ordinary evening when a group of old friends decides to hang out together at the home of one for a New Year’s celebration. The couples are busy getting dressed, deciding where to head for the party. We see one of the friends, Akram, trying to deal with an issue with his estranged wife regarding their son and learn that he is in the midst of figuring out the child's custody. However, a fire breaks out in the hosts' home, jeopardizing the life of their baby.

Like a slowly unravelling taut coil, Custody amps up the suspense, creating an atmosphere of tension. The film shifts in tone with the tragedy as the friends try to figure out who is to blame for the fire. Different characters become objects of suspicion, and one witnesses their true selves, morality and withering inter-personal relationships as they deal with the situation. It also makes us think about young parenthood and responsibility.

One is made to believe that the film is headed in a certain direction when, suddenly, it changes course, slowly sucking us into the vortex of the drama that unfolds before our eyes. In the blink of an eye, the happy-go-lucky group is transformed as the air becomes tainted and filled with suspicion. In all of this, the tragedy makes it an emotionally bruising drama. 

It’s a delight to witness a product of good writing and Custody does not disappoint. The performances by Sanghamitra Hitaishi, Karan Pandit, Tanaji Dasgupta and Swaroopa Ghosh lend authenticity to their characters. Pandit plays around with the title, leading us down one path and shifting the meaning by the end of the film.

A clever film that is masterfully executed, Custody keeps you hooked till the end, making you wonder about the characters long after the film is over.

The film will be screened as part of the upcoming Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles (IFFLA).

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