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Review Hindi

Transistor review: Touching short about young love in the time of mass sterilization

Release Date: 30 Jul 2021

Cinestaan Rating

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Sukhpreet Kahlon

Prem Singh’s film brings alive the plight of lovers during a historically agitated period.

Set in 1975, when a mass sterilization drive sought to control India’s burgeoning population, Prem Singh’s short film focuses on the innocent love of a young couple whose lives are forever changed by a seemingly harmless transistor.

Transistor unfolds in a village, where the high point of the day for a young woman (Ahsaas Channa) is sitting in the shade of a tree and tuning in to the radio. An expensive and coveted commodity in the village, the transistor radio nonetheless gained notoriety during the sterilization drive as it was also a reward for a man undergoing a vasectomy.

A young man (Mohammad Samad) courts her by watching her, half-hidden, basking in her presence and the songs she plays. In a romantic moment gone awry, he accidentally breaks her gadget, causing much dismay.

With minimal dialogues, the courtship of the lovebirds unfolds under a tree, away from the close-knit community life of the village. Although a tad long drawn, the courtship reveals the innocent world of the lovers, content just to be in each other’s company. Channa and Samad are well suited to play the protagonists with simple interests and pleasures. In the absence of dialogues, the two convey their hopes for the future as well as their dismay through their expressions.

Although the actions of the lad are predictable, Prem Singh’s strength lies in bringing the story alive. The visual palette brings to life the historicity of the setting and the cinematography captures the stunning beauty and predicament of an ordinary, dusty village. With strong production values and a beautiful folk soundtrack evoking pathos towards the end, we empathize with the plight of the two lovers.

Prem Singh’s film is a critique of the mass sterilization drive as vasectomy was forcibly done on men of all ages, especially in rural areas, to meet targets set by the higher-ups. The tone is set by the opening image of a knife being sharpened and the film captures the response of the villagers, who see sterilization as a curse upon families. The scene where the villagers flee from the road thinking they will be rounded up like cattle for sterilization informs us about their abject exploitation during the Emergency in India. The ending gives us facts about forced sterilization, but the message is incongruous with the film’s central narrative.

Transistor was screened at the Bengaluru International Short Film Festival from 28 August to 5 September 2021.


Related topics

Bengaluru International Short Film Festival

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