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Review Hindi

Laali review: Pankaj Tripathi shines in an intimate film about being loveless and lonely 

Release Date: 09 Jan 2021 / 45min

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Sukhpreet Kahlon

Abhiroop Basu’s short film explores the melancholia and loneliness of a man whose imagination is fuelled by a red dress.

Mainstream films often portray romance as being larger than life, with a fairy tale ending.  Portraying a very different story that contemplates the absence of romance, Abhiroop Basu’s short film Laali, starring Pankaj Tripathi, takes us into the world of a dhobi (clothes presser) whose life has passed him by.

The film unfolds in a dusty bylane in the suburbs of Kolkata where a dhobi is wrapping up his work, ironing the last few clothes of the day. In the background, a radio jockey talks about how time and love are the two most important things needed in life. Stories of desire and love fill the night air as he comes across a red dress, given by a customer to be ironed. Perplexed about this piece of clothing that clearly stands out from the usual fare, he gingerly handles it and tries to figure out a way to carefully iron it.

But as he winds down and tucks in for the night, the dress beckons him and fuels his imagination. His only companions are his bottle of liquor, ghazals and a bobblehead doll that he bought at a village fair. The provocative piece of clothing evokes a world very different from his and highlights all that he does not possess in his life — a companion, wealth, a certain lifestyle. When the supposed customer takes back his clothes but leaves the dress behind, the mystery deepens and the article of clothing takes on the contours of becoming his companion.

Tripathi is pretty much the sole actor in the film and he artfully inhabits the mannerisms of his character with small gestures and movements. At the beginning of the film, in a long take, he goes about doing his work and we observe him in his space as a man past his prime whose chance at finding a companion passed by. With his deepening wrinkles and nagging neck pain, the dress injects a flicker of enthusiasm in his otherwise mundane and melancholic existence.

Written and directed by Basu, the film relies on the carefully created mise-en-scene and sound design to depict the everyday existence of an ordinary man. Basu’s understanding of characters and his ability to bring out their interiority is laudable as is his turning his lens on to the lives and unfulfilled romances of those who live on the margins of society.

The short film premiered at the ongoing Dharamshala International Film Festival.


Related topics

Dharamshala International Film Festival

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