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Kathaah@8 review: Daring attempt to deal with multiple themes of life in one anthology

Release Date: 31 Aug 2019 / 01hr 33min

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Suyog Zore

Eight short films in eight different languages are stitched together to make this feature, the first time a feature film has been made in eight languages.

Weaving eight stories taking place at eight different locations in eight languages into one single feature film is not an easy task. Writer-director Shilpa Krishnan Shukla took up this challenge, but does she succeed?

Kathaah@8 is a small-budget indie film, but still it was a risky proposition to have eight different stories that are not linked in any way. If nothing else, the director should be lauded for undertaking such a gutsy project because this is the first time someone has attempted to tell eight stories in eight languages in one feature film. The languages Shukla has chosen are Assamese, Bengali, Gujarati, Malayalam, Marathi, Punjabi, Tamil and Telugu.

Each short film deals with a different topic, but they all have recurring themes of divorce, parenthood, marriage and death. So, we see a couple pondering over its future after the children start living on their own. Another couple has no children. Someone is stuck in a loveless marriage and looking for a divorce; someone else is looking for love. Someone is dealing with the death of a loved one and someone is coming to terms with one's own illness.

Director Shukla tries to weave all these stories in a single thread and succeeds to an extent. Some stories are serious while others are lighter, and this creates an inconsistent tone for the film as a whole. And that is why it fails to make an impact. You end up remembering only those shorts which you liked.

Instead of giving a title to each short film, the director has chosen to simply use the term 'Katha' (story) in the language of the short. Though all the shorts have different tones and deal with different themes, one commonality is that each has been shot at a single location. Most of them have been shot indoors. But with the tone and theme differing, it becomes difficult to keep track of the short once it gets over. Of the eight shorts, the two that make the most impact are the films in Bengali and Marathi.

The Bengali short film deals with the topic of how children treat their parents in old age. It keeps you hooked throughout because of the way the director has conceived the scene. Two brothers and their wives are discussing at the dining table who will inherit the property after their father's death. The simple discussion slowly turns into a heated argument. The way the scene has been written and performed, you feel as if you are watching an actual conversation in a family.

The Marathi short deals with adoption and the stigma attached to it. This is also a beautifully conceived film. A husband and wife are sitting on either side of a closed door and discussing whether to adopt a child. Throughout the film, we never see them in one frame as they are on either side of a closed door. And their performance is realistic.

The least impactful short is the one in Malayalam, which deals with the contemporary yet ancient concepts of love and friendship. Somehow, it doesn't fit in with the rest.

All the artistes in the eight short films have done well. There is good chemistry among them and it does not appear as if they are performing for the camera. It is all very realistic.

Another thing that catches your attention is the cinematography by Mathew Jenif Joseph. Almost all the short films have been shot in mid close-up. And the visual language of the film remains common in all the films. Overall, Kathaah@8 is an interesting concept.

Kathaah@8 was screened at the 18th Third Eye Asian Film Festival on 5 March 2020.


Related topics

Third Eye Asian Film Festival

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