Greetings and welcome to my first official article tied to the 2017 New York Indian Film Festival! Not only has this opportunity arrived to attend my very first festival, but also to have the honor of viewing and briefly reviewing the five nominees for this year’s Best Short Film category. The medium of short film is quite an engaging and varied platform, offering the biggest challenge in that the filmmaker must be able to encompass an entire narrative within anywhere from two to perhaps fifty minutes, and deliver it in such a way as to have maximum intended impact on the viewer within that abbreviated timespan. There’s an art to it, but take it from this critic, it’s a fantastic form of cinema magic with effective, noteworthy results. So, this said, let’s take a look at this year’s nominees for Best Short Film at NYIFF 2017!
Life. It passes more quickly than we ever would hope, often with us taking it for granted. But for one orphan girl, Sunku (Dani Sunku), living with her dear grandparents (Dani Randa & Dani Chunya) in Arunachal Pradesh, life is about to illustrate how unpredictable it can truly be, even as she watches her beloved Aaba fading away.
Writer/director Amar Kaushik’s 21-minute study on the fragility of our existence and how we cope with growing old, looking back, and preparing to move on carries itself with an understated yet potent mood and slow burn delivery that greatly benefits from Randa and Sunku’s performances, painting a portrait of both the end and beginning of two individual’s lives while love, a sense of responsibility, acknowledgement of inevitability, and how it all influences everyone involved is presented.
“Do Cup Chai (Two Cups of Tea)“
What could have been. How do we face the truths of actions not taken that might have yielded favorable results or an alternate future path? For two former lovers (Rahul Bagga & Meher Mistry), a plan made 8 years prior comes back to haunt them in a subtly passionate discussion over tea. Yes, what could have been with a promise kept?
Exuding a subdued intensity tempered with an equally effective, quiet charm, writer/director Rayit Hashmat Qazi’s 12-minute dramatic ode to meaningful vows made and bonds then broken is well-executed, providing an air of both tension and longing between the two leads Bagga and Mistry, whose palpable chemistry lights up the narrative and gives it the desired emotional punch, even when simply portrayed via two souls reuniting over cups of chai.
Watch the Trailer Here
Childhood fears. We all had them, some more pronounced than others, and often so seemingly unconquerable. When shy, reserved 11-year old Melvin (Viraj Khemani) falls for the new girl at school, Debby (Gracy Singh), he embarks on a courageous journey to vanquish his primary phobia, with a little assistance from a favorite hero.
With a total infusion of heartwarming, innocent, completely relatable, and poignantly affecting appeal, this narrative about overcoming the odds, beating back anxiety, winning the day, and hey, getting the girl, is told with such acute precision and decisive execution that it is guaranteed to stir your emotions and make you smile, all thanks to writer/director Pia Shah, whose deft delivery here and well-filmed visual look showcases what the beauty of short film is all about.
“Let Some Clouds Float In“
Watch the Trailer Here
Finding love. It will forever be one of this world’s most elusive and sobering challenges if we seek out a true significant other that fulfills us. In 1990’s India, one unmarried woman (Devika Daftardar) navigates the perils of attempting to find a suitable match in a society that tells her she’s gone beyond prime age. At what cost will attachment come?
Director/editor Mayuresh Gotkhindikar’s 29-minute short film effort reflects the mindset of a country in transition, putting forth a raw, candid, and visceral look at one woman’s hard-fought trials to find the one person she can connect with in the midst of self-doubt, abuse, and those around her that either encourage her or attempt to drag her down. A strongly compelling performance from Daftardar propels the narrative with poise and purpose, the viewer hoping her character’s pursuit ends well.
“Vaarasa (The Inheritance)“
The burden of birthright. With the weight of a system that sees only the stratum of social class you were born into, a young man named Rahul (Mahendra Walunj) fights against his family’s financial needs vs. his own personal ideals, deciding whether education leading to a better life or obligations to home will decide his future road.
Pairing a very sobering overall narrative about the caste system with the potent, personal, and convincingly human viewpoint of Rahul and the world he inhabits, director/editor Shreyas Chougule’s 15-minute effort creates an emotionally-charged atmosphere that drives its primary messages about duty to household, longed for dreams, and the bitter realities we hide when desiring outcomes that may never actually come about. Walunj is a marvel, with a realistic and fervent turn as Rahul.
These are the stories we are given. This is the representation of what talents lie within the independent film ranks. There is a passion, a drive, a desire, and fortitude, and goal these storytellers are aiming to share with the world through their art, and this small cross-section of projects is only scratching the surface when it comes to bringing to light the wealth of ability these men and women possess and choose to share with the world at large. We congratulate these five finalists, understanding this recognition alone is an honor. Now, it’s time to see which one stands out the most at NYIFF 2017! For this reviewer, worthy efforts all.
Check out the entire NYIFF 2017 Schedule and Ticketing information HERE
As always, this is all for your consideration and comment. Until next time, thank you for reading!