Review Hindi

Shoebox review: Tender remembrance of days past

Release Date: 2021 / 01hr 38min

Cinestaan Rating

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Sukhpreet Kahlon

Faraz Ali’s feature is a poignant ode to the city of Allahabad as it examines the nuances of a father-daughter relationship.

Directed by Faraz Ali, the feature Shoebox takes us back in time to a place before multiplex theatres and glitzy modern structures, to the city of Allahabad in the throes of change. Straddling its hallowed place in Hindu mythology with a desire for progress, the city becomes the site where memory and nostalgia come together to evoke times past. The film stars Amrita Bagchi, Purnendu Bhattacharya and Ashok Pathak.

As a child, Mampu (Bagchi) lost her mother in a car accident, which irrevocably altered her relationship with her father Madhav (Bhattacharya), owner of a single-screen theatre. Years later, when she returns home to Allahabad to take care of her ailing father, she revisits memories of her home and childhood and confronts the reality of a city in the throes of change.

Madhav hopes in vain to revive his theatre, refusing to acknowledge the present banging down his door. We see images of the crumbling city juxtaposed with buildings being torn down and remade. Madhav’s theatre is a dinosaur, which local builders want to tear down and turn into a swanky complex, erasing its past decisively. But he holds on. However, there are other people driven by political ambition, invested in their own futures, impatient to rid the city of its traditional moorings.

Allahabad is shown to be in the process of being given its new name, Prayagraj, and is a character in the film, just like the old theatre. Faraz Ali pays tribute to a time past, foregrounding memory, the small pleasures in childhood, and simpler times. Although the debate on the city’s name being changed to Prayagraj seems staged, the film captures the in-betweenness of places that are in the midst of transformation and ruminates on histories that in many ways will get erased in the process. But how much should one hold on to the past?

Mampu remembers the heydays of the theatre, which enables Faraz Ali to doff his hat nostalgically towards the joy of single-screen theatres, the viewing experience, the clapping and the hooting, anchored, but of course, in the superstardom of Amitabh Bachchan. Woven into this is the relationship between the father and daughter that changed irrevocably with the death of the mother. Mampu laments being sent away to boarding school; she describes her anguish, loneliness and the loss of her home. In due course, she begins to understand her father’s love for her.

In many ways, Shoebox is a lament for days past. As the dilapidated theatre, which has reached the end of its tether in the face of modernization, and the vapours of so-called progress envelop the rest of the city, Faraz Ali gives us scenes of the city being torn down to make way for a new, shiny future, reminding us how architecture frames our sense of spaces. But what does this future hold and what is the price one really has to pay for it?

Shoebox was screened virtually from 26 to 28 February at the MAMI Mumbai Film Festival.


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MAMI Mumbai Film Festival

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