ilms that are strictly about India tend to become overtly touristy and unnecessarily clichéd. When a set of short films comes out bearing the theme, 'India: A visual journey', you automatically brace yourself for a sweeping history lesson. Imagine my surprise then, when I began watching these five Viacom 18 and Anurag Kashyap produced short films on YouTube, each of which interpreted the theme in surprisingly refreshing ways.
In Hidden Cricket director Shlok Sharma picks up cricket as his theme and constructs a four minute short that runs more like a Pepsi commercial with all kinds of people running about the streets of different Indian towns and cities, knocking the ball around and then chasing after it. High on energy, the film binds the love and madness Indians feel for cricket beautifully, telling us more about our country and its quirks than any state sponsored film with the same theme ever could. "I wanted to capture how the aam aadmi plays cricket, which essentially can be played anywhere irrespective of where one is and what time of the week it is," said Sharma in an online interview about the film.
Chai, Gitanjali Rao's part fictionalised live action and part animation film, similarly traces the lives of those migrant tea- sellers who actually make tea for us at comer shops, Baristas, and bus stops, but whose stories we never bother to hear. "Chai is such an important part of our daily lives. It connects people from all across the country. And yet we never look past the faces of those who actually serve us chai. I wanted to use chai as a metaphor that brings together people from different regions and classes," said Rao in an interview with Guardian 20. She uses the metaphor of tea to tell tales of abuse, resistance, determination and freedom that define each of the four tea sellers. "Living in Bombay it became obvious to me how huge the phenomenon of migration was. Everyone here comes from somewhere else. I wanted to register my preoccupation with migration through this film," she added.
In Chai, Rao uses the metaphor of tea to tell tales of abuse, resistance, determination and freedom that define each of the four tea sellers.
Anubhuti Kashyap, who has been Anurag Kashayp's assistant on a number of films, directs the short Moi Marjaani, which is a wonderful story about a single mother in Patiala who runs an internet cafe to make ends meet. She falls in love with a stranger on the net but because of a curious cosmetic problem on her face she can't quite bring herself to face him yet. The film makes a very intelligent comment on surviving in a country which is obsessed with fairness and has extremely rigid standards of beauty, capturing the Indian reality from a regular woman's perspective quite well.
A still from Anubhuti Kashyap’s film Moi Marjaani
Neeraj Ghaywan turns his lens on the way young India deals with broken relationships by telling the story of a divorced couple who are forced to take a ride back to Bombay together in The Epiphany. Their differences about morality, culture, money and language all somehow fall to bits when they are forced to deal with a misfortune on the road. Vasan Bala, whose film Peddlers was screened at Cannes last year, meditates on the multiple lives we lead in the short Geek Out. He focuses particularly on the virtual identities we have created for ourselves on the web.
Each film offers a fascinating and contemporary take on India, which by itself is no small feat. "'India' as a theme is extremely vast and you could completely lose your way and get lost. But it also offers you the freedom to do something new, which was the point of the project," explained Rao.