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First, the Recap:
The everlasting, unconditional, all-encompassing love of a mother for her child is a force in itself which is not easily hindered or broken. Willing to do anything for the sake of a son or daughter, it remains a bond steeped in deep-seated commitment, an undivided, protective relationship, and a joy unlike any other. On this specific day in the tiny rural community of Peshawar, Pakistan, one young boy named Farooq (Sartaaj Rk) comes home with a sense of excitement in having experienced a friend’s birthday gathering, knowing full well his own special time is arriving the very next day, much to the additional glee of his doting Ammi (Rasika Dugal).
However, even as his Ammi attempts to teach a small lesson about responsibility, Farooq comes out with a request–he desires a new school bag for his birthday. Somewhat surprised at his innocent yet stubbornly demanding tone, Ammi initially questions his attitude and impatience for the new possession, indicating his father might bring it to him the following day. Unwilling to let it go, Farooq begins to distance himself from his Ammi, unsettled and disappointed in the lack of conviction she seems to have for granting the wish. But, as the next day dawns, it becomes a day of surprises that neither one of them would ever have expected.
Next, my Mind:
Deftly portraying the myriad of nuances found in the ever-fluctuating yet solidly founded connection between a mother and her son, director Dheeraj Jindal and co-director/writer Anshul Agrawal’s 16-minute short film effort, based on true events, absolutely engages the viewer from its whimsical start to dramatically affecting finale via every facet of the project’s execution. Smoothly shot cinematography takes us into the lives of Farooq and his Ammi with fluid visuals that so wonderfully aid in capturing the uncomplicated settings this narrative occurs within while a beautifully orchestrated musical score accompanies the unfolding events with evocative intent. This is a portrait of not just mother and son, but the mercurial aspects of embracing parenthood, the sometimes frustrating willfulness yet unassuming love of a child, and the ramifications of decisions made that, regardless of cause or purpose and having no actual fault, can haunt us in the now, even possibly for a lifetime.
Dugal simply glows in her performance as Ammi, a lovingly patient, mildly discontented young woman whose unwavering devotion to her son could be construed as both a strength and a weakness, given the circumstances in play. Yet, it is this ebb and flow of her fondness, her tenderness, her utter dedication to Farooq’s well-being and his learning about how life works that drives her to ensure his ultimate happiness is attained. The warmth of their bond is so overtly endearing, and Dugal enacts this very effectively. Similarly, Sartaaj Rk’s portrayal of Farooq is equally captivating, painting a picture a boy whose delightfully carefree, happy, and charismatic demeanor is hampered only by an unyielding sense of entitlement when he wants something, unshakable in his insistence, yet charming in his persistence to obtain the gift he so desperately wants. The interactions with his Ammi, whether jubilant or obstinate, are emotive and impactful, thanks to the well-played delivery from Rk.
In total, with its heartfelt, stirring, and playfully emotional narrative and a finale that, rest assured, will have a decidedly moving, deeply relevant impact on the viewer, “The School Bag” easily stands as a fantastically presented short film effort that illustrates the power of practical, grounded filmmaking combined with the character-driven, uncompromisingly human storytelling which characterizes independent cinema worldwide. This reviewer always hopes that in seeing works like this, it will encourage viewers and filmmakers alike to come back to the appreciation of cinema for what it is and should always be–art.
As always, this is all for your consideration and comment. Until next time, thank you for reading!