Even with a spate of new releases, we still wish to continue what we used to and that is to provide budding filmmakers the voice with their feature films and shorts. Again this is not a regular feature neither have the filmmakers approached us for the same. This is just a small gesture from our end to give back some words of encouragement to the fraternity. And with that I finished watching the new Hindi short Laali starring Pankaj Tripathi and streaming on Hotstar. The film has travelled the world across many film festivals and finally I got a chance to watch it. Is Laali worth your time, lets find out.
Story & Screenplay
As is the case for us with all shorts, We will not be revealing any bit of the plot to avoid any spoilers. But the story is niche, abstract and a quiet tale on solitide! The screentime of just 36 minutes ensures that the drama isn’t stretched. It opens with a 13 minute one-take sequence which is enough to get to know the protagonist(a laundry worker) who seems to be a loner, living in solitude and has almost no one to talk to. The radio and an occassional customer is all whom he has for company. This until he finds an expected ‘company’.
The screenplay is a slow burn and it does require patience to truly understand the complexities and the nuances of it. I remember a similar story being presented in the anthology Ankahi Kahaaniyan which had Abhishek Banerjee at the helm of it. That story just fell flat and so even a brilliant director by Ashwini Iyer Tiwari could not translate an abstract story onscreen. But here the whole environment created matches so well with the drama. The lack of a crowd around does make man lonely and so he finds innovative ways wriggling out of the situation.
The use of esoterics is commendable. The opening shot of 13 minutes has only the utterance of a radio with almost no dialogues being mouthed by the protagonist. This instantly sets the tone for the drama to follow. Also the visuals involving the protagonist carrying his ‘company’ as a lady and sleeping next to it gives a lot of information about his past. The melancholic ending where the protagonist has to reluctantly let go of her, only for a procession of a marriage to follow tells a story in itself. The screenplay is filled with such occurences which sums up the drama brilliantly.
Dialogues, Music & Direction
The dialogues are sparingly used and the film relies a lot on the visuals which makes it subtly impactful. The music is beautiful and each song either playing on the radio or in the background perfectly sums up the mood of the scene. The BGM relies on prolonged periods of silence which ultimately gets to you and helps you empathize with the protagonist. The cinematography is beautiful and the old shop itself is representative of Kolkata, a city which has its old world charm intact! Director Abhiroop Basu seems to be a keen observer in real life which has translated to this story. The subtle texture of it really adds a bunch of flavours to this tale and for that the director needs to be applauded.
Ekavali Khanna shines in an extended cameo here. But for the role of the “unnamed” protagonist, you needed a solid performer. And it is Pankaj Tripathi who was brilliant in this short. Right from his mannerisms to expressing his solitude without even uttering a single word, he puts up a commendable act which stays with you long after the film has ended! If any budding actors need to study a performance which was only skeleton on paper but brought to life oncreen, then it is this performance of Pankaj Tripathi.
Laali is niche, abstract and a quiet tale on solitude. Available on Hotstar and Highly Recommended!