Mumbai, 31 Mar 2019 13:00 IST
With sparse movement, Khurana's film is a conversational examination of the self, but fails to raise its tempo sufficiently.
There is something about conversational films that make for interesting self-examinations. Whether it is Richard Linklater's iconic Before series, or Steven Wright's 2003 anthology, Coffee and Cigarettes, the characters are built through dialogues that examine the conflicts, drama, events through dialogue itself. In Kabeer Khurana's Karma Cafe, conversation over food becomes the key to this examination.
The 15-minute short revolves around a hungry patron (Nakul Sahdev), who lands up at an emptied out, barren diner run by Amol Gupte as a shabby owner. The trick, as he finds out is that any diner only receives the dish he is fit for. After all, this is Karma Cafe. With hunger eating him within, the young man has no choice but to exfoliate his soul by unravelling his past and his actions to the keen ear of the owner.
The plot sounds fairly simple, but deeply philosophical. Except, it does not always translate into good cinema. In Karma Cafe, Khurana manages to blend science fiction in the form of the omniscient cooking machine, Cosmo, that knows everything and a human drama. However, the drama does not live up to the expectations. On most parts, it feel unidirectional. In doing so, the feature loses a little something in terms of a connect with the audience.
Another problem is the English nature of the dialogues. While understandably set, there is something odd in watching two people in the city converse entirely in English without any influence of Hindi or Marathi. It might have also been interesting to explore the cafe owner's soul as well. But those are creative calls beyond a reviewer. Like the diner, he must eat what he gets.
The camerawork is sparse, but effective in maintaining a haunted, heavy feel through the short. The lighting and background sounds stay low to keep the thread of conversation flowing unabated.
While it is interesting, the film feels a little low in tempo, and the conversation builds up only to go nowhere. But then, often in life, conversations don't really go anywhere. In that, Karma Cafe succeeds.
Karma Cafe is available on the Youtube channel, humaramovie.