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Cinestaan Curates: Listener is an astute reflection of our modern lives

Release Date: 14 May 2021

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Sukhpreet Kahlon

Tarun Dudeja’s debut short film catches us off guard with a delightful twist.

It has often been said that our technologically driven worlds have brought people together virtually while simultaneously exacerbating our loneliness. Tarun Dudeja’s debut short film Listener reflects on this thought as he envisions a milieu where people pay others to listen to them.

The film tells the story of a man (Kumud Mishra) who practises the stories that he will narrate to his daughter before she falls asleep at night. However, he has a rather unusual job, that of a listener, who is hired by the hour to listen to customers, who have no one else to lend them a sympathetic ear. A businessman (Yusuf Hussain) shares his financial woes, among other troubles; a woman (Shivani Tanksale) shares her excitement at making a road journey; a jilted lover (Shashank Arora) is unable to come to terms with the end of his relationship and obsesses over his lover’s relationship. All the while, the listener sits patiently, allowing them to unburden themselves. 

The character of the listener is beautifully performed by Mishra, who communicates much with small gestures. We realize that he is a man who likes to perform and tell stories but his job requires him to stay silent for the most part. There is a stark contrast between his animated self in front of the mirror and who he becomes while getting ready for his work when he switches his jovial expression for a sombre one.

Listener toys with the audience ever so gently, leading us down one path and then springing up the revelation at the end. The film begins with the quote “It takes a great man to be a good listener” and ends with a very different thought. Dudeja does leave a trail of breadcrumbs that indicate the ending but the delight lies in being caught off guard, leaving us with a smile.

The short film, which has travelled to several international film festivals, is featured as part of the Royal Stag Barrel Select Large Short Films and is available on YouTube.

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Cinestaan Curates

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