Shorts in the city
In Chandril Bhattacharya’s Bengali short film Talent, the titular character is a fat, scruffy-looking man in jeans and T-shirt. He is the personification of the talent of a popular poet, who wakes up one morning to find him seated on his bedside. After Talent abandons Poet, the latter loses his touch, facing professional, public and personal embarrassments.
Poet is desperate to have Talent, who left him out of boredom and ennui, back in his life. At first he pleads with Talent, even offering him a free vacation, then tries to reason with him, cut a deal, and finally, resorts to threats and torture.
What happens in between these events and after them is just as bizarre as it is delightful.
Bhattacharya is a cultural icon in Bengal, especially among the youth. He is a poet, a columnist, and a national award-winning lyricist for the Bangla band Chandrabindoo. He’s known for his incisive, satirical writings on human hypocrisies. In Talent, he takes on his own kind, and perhaps even himself.
At one point, Poet’s friend suggests that he could take up film-making as an alternative career, for it doesn’t need any talent. Bhattacharya lays bare an artist’s insecurities and cowardice by bringing the poet face to face with his worst fear—losing creativity, that most intangible of things.
The 20-minute film, available on YouTube, is full of the kind of playful puns and phrases one would expect from Bhattacharya. But the loss in translation is minimal, thanks to some excellent subtitling.
The characters in Indranil Roychowdhury’s Bhalobashar Shohor (City Of Love) live in the same city as those in Talent, but might as well belong to another planet. Their problems and motivations are very different. The young widow Buri—her husband Adil was killed in Syria, where he was posted— struggles to continue her child’s treatment for a critical brain injury by working overtime at a beauty parlour. She had already had to bear the grief of leaving her lonely, aged parents too.
Sadness pervades every frame of the 30-minute film, which plays out like an elegy to Buri’s loss, as well as to the changing city of Kolkata. Whether it is the dark, cramped neighbourhood or the way the overground Metro noisily interrupts important calls, the cityscape is in sync with the emotional state of the protagonist. It is an intimate film that deals with personal grief, yet gives us a sense of the world and its politics.
The casting is interesting—Bangladeshi actor Jaya Ahsan plays the Bengali middle-class girl Buri, and Bengali actor Ritwick Chakraborty, the Hindi-speaking Muslim Adil. The film is available for free on YouTube in India and Bangladesh. Viewers in other countries can see it is on Vimeo.
Roychowdhury has made several full-length feature films, including Phoring (2013), a sensitive story of a boy’s infatuation with his schoolteacher. City Of Love is his first short film and the writer-director, in a brief appearance before the start of the film, makes an appeal to the viewer on the importance of monetizing the format. Viewers can pay as much as they like, using the PayTM QR code and bank account details which appear at the end of the film.