NYIFF 2017 Film Review “Side A Side B”



First, the Recap:

The rhythms of the path we walk while finding our way in this world.  With a seemingly immeasurable number of choices to make when it comes to where we wish to be, it so often comes down to the bond we share with someone special, that single person who dominates, even consumes, our existence with a depth of friendship, understanding, and love that transcends words. But, what if that attachment is suddenly thrown into doubt? For two young lovers, Shivi (Shivranjani Singh) and Aiban “Joel” Gogoi (Rahul Rajkhowa), the foundations of their hearts towards each other has been unbreakable, filled with all the “firsts” associated with newfound intimacy, devotion, and adoration, until a 44-hour train ride ensues from Guwahati to Mumbai.

Having chosen to do an internship in the City of Dreams that could lead to even farther off venues, Shivi’s decision to do so has caused Aiban to join her on the journey to this new frontier, but in doing so, finds himself realizing exactly how deeply he is enamored with her, and the thoughts of losing her soon take over. Likewise, Shivi begins to contemplate the ramifications her choice will have on the couple, longing for the tenderness of what the two share, yet also desiring to be free to find out who she is. What unfolds is a fantastical, sobering musical adventure that will explore ideology, fear, stagnation, growing up, frustration, priorities, and the one idea they both don’t ultimately want to face–letting go.

Next, my Mind:

In one of the most auspiciously creative efforts this reviewer has seen in many years of covering indie cinema, writer/director/producer Sudhish Kamath delivers a convincingly endearing, strongly expressive, joyful yet achingly heart-wrenching, pathos-fueled feature film whose strength remains firmly intact throughout by the sheer fact it is such a beautifully executed portrait of youthful ardor confronting an unwanted inevitability. Filmed entirely on both an iPhone and Samsung S7, the personal tone and mood the format creates very much establishes the viewer’s connection with the leads as their journey, and their relationship, both evolves and devolves during the train ride.  The absolute genius of telling this narrative through 8 specific extended song sequences done live intermixed with time jumps ala music video-style presentation only serves to bring the story to life in an even more compelling and stirring way. Kudos to the music by Sudeep Swaroop, both whimsical and affecting.

Rajkhowa very much shines brightly here in his portrayal of Aiban, a small-town boy whose found the absolute love of his life, driven by all the facets of freedom that infatuation and doting brings for him and his musical creations. Singing songs that illustrate both the depth of desire and childlike innocence he has for Shivi, Aiban wears his heart on his sleeve, which becomes an obstacle when his thoughts about the pair’s future spill out. Rajkhowa navigates these varying emotional currents wonderfully, thanks to great singing, a playful demeanor, and believable sentiment. Singh is pure beauty and sublime poise as Shivi, a young woman who’s just as caught up in the puppy love-filled wonder the relationship has brought, very much giving her a new sense of longing and purpose in this stage of her life. Yet, she also sees herself becoming something more, perhaps involuntarily stepping into a famous mother’s shoes, but wanting her own identity and time to seek it out.

It’s this notion that propels her, despite the heartbreak in feeling like she’s hurting Aiban. Trying to assure him it’s not the end, but knowing what’s most likely to occur, she finally recognizes how much she is not ready for any separation. The two actors have an unadulterated, undiluted, palpable chemistry together, which only makes the poignancy of their performances even more profoundly impactful. In total, “Side A Side B” is a consummate example of inspiration, innovation, and originality that finds its home thanks to independent cinema and its virtually limitless boundaries. Its tale submits the formidable potency of new love, the anxieties that can so easily arise when it’s shaken, and the acknowledgement that sometimes, however painful to accept, life simply has other plans. Can we treasure what was experienced and move on remains the question.

As always, this is all for your consideration and comment.  Until next time, thank you for reading!


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