By Nitya Chakraborty
The second session of Unpaused – A Naya Safar released in the OTT platform Amazon Prime Video last week has offered the viewers the package of five short films like the first one, focusing on different areas of the society hit by the second wave of covid. The directors have chosen themes of varying nature but there is an underlying theme on how inequality is widening impacting the majority of the Indian population.
In fact, this pandemic which is a global phenomenon for the last three years, has adversely affected more the Indian population compared to other countries in view of the large number of population below the poverty line and the absence of the guaranteed social security schemes for the poor. The pauperization is taking place across all sections of the society excepting the rich, especially the super rich.
The latest data show that the annual income of the poorest 20 per cent of Indian households, constantly rising since 1995,plunged 53 per cent in the pandemic year 2020-21 from their levels in 2015-16.In the same period, the richest 20 per cent saw their annual household income grow 39 per cent. Just imagine, how the most vulnerable sections of the Indian population, are carrying on now when the prices of the essential commodities for the poor have shot up while their income has drastically fallen.
In such a milieu, the second session short films are being screened. Excepting the lucky ones who work in government offices, organised public sector and the new tech companies known for their corporate ethics, all others who work in private sector including the middle and senior executives, will experience a feeling of what has happened already in their workplace or what is in store for many of them. For the first time, the private sector people are having thoughts it would have been better to work in a public sector.
Among this new crop of five films, the first one ‘The Couple” is a vivid presentation of what may engulf a couple including the family when a person loses suddenly the prized job. Nupur Asthana, the director has set the tone perfect and what followed between the young couple living in a Society apartment is a highly credible portrayal with which any such couple of digital era can identify. Nupur has rightly posed the bigger issues, but in a low key manner. The relationship get challenged though both try their best to stay together.
The couple Ahkriti (Shreya Dhanwanthary) and Dippy (Priyansu Painyuli) do a fantastic job by being every inch that young techie those who have confidence and dream big. Akriti is the main protagonist who does not understand why in spite of her outstanding performance, she has to lose her job. Her young husband is equally stressed and under pressure to perform. The squabbling of this work from home couple is a common scenario in such young families. It should go to the credit of the director and the script writer and they have made the scenes so natural with the help of the two actors.
In fact, this particular short film has the potential to be made into a full length feature in OTT depicting in more details, the impact that the pandemic is having on the Indian couples focusing on the workplace and the extended families. One can think of Arthur Miller’s great work “Death of a Salesman” which was written in late forties focusing on the impact of depression in the 1930s on the common American families. Miller was himself the son of a salesman who did big in his career initially but became a loser after the depression in U.S. economy. The financial situation of the family was so bad that his father could not send him to school for two years.
Willy Loman, the protagonist in ‘Death of A Salesman” represented that class of career aspiring middle class in America in post 1930s who did not understand why they became losers. They worked hard for their respective families, tried honestly to earn money but the depression made then into failures. Akrita in ‘The Couple’ is slightly better placed compared to Loman but she and her contemporaries have the same questions to ask how could it happen to me?
The fifth and the last film in the series ’Vaikunth’ is memorable for the atmosphere that has been created by the director Nagraj Manjule in the crematorium. Manjule himself is playing the role of Vikas, a crematorium worker who is continuously doing his job with utmost dedication as extra pressure is coming on him due to increasing deaths from covid. Manjule has done a great job in both roles. The sequences where the family members wait for the ashes , the silent movements of the personnel coming with the vans containing covid infected bodies for last rites, Vikas’s non chalant dealing with duties- all point to a reminder of a grim reality.
The climax reaches in this short film when Vikas’s father Tukaram who was in hospital, died and brought in the van to the same Vaikunth crematorium. Vikas continuously enquired of the condition of his father but he was not prepared for his death. Manjule has imparted a surreal dimension to the last scene and for the viewers, this remains long after the film ends.
Ruchir Arun’s Teen Tigada is on the squabbles on illegal business during lock down between three young people who are taking care of stolen goods. The script has focused on their individual tales and how these helped later in restoring bond between them. ’War Room; is an interesting tale on what happens in such a covid work station of the state government. The screenplay is very effective in creating the hectic and busy atmosphere in the room Within this set up, a personal tale of a female staff is focused in a highly artistic manner.
Gond Ke Laddu is another short film where a delivery boy damages a parcel of special laddoos while meeting an accident. His wife prepares the same by talking to the sender and that was later delivered to the concerned person. The script has some focus on the uncertainties being faced by the gig workers during the pandemic. The delivery boy has to perform, otherwise he loses his job. His immediate concern is how to pay the home loan instalment. This is common for the young couples. There is a bit loss of focus but still, the short film will be liked by the young generation
Amazon Prime Movies should sponsor many such films including feature because the three year long pandemic has opened up the possibilities for the young film makers to think of many facets of its impact on the society. The two sessions of Unpaused are just tip in the iceberg in the vast ocean of India’s social realities. (IPA Service)