“Doubt thou the stars are fire;
Doubt the sun doth move;
doubt truth to be a liar;
but never doubt
I love.”
(from William Shakespeare’s “Hamlet”)

Born in 1989, Indian filmmaker and playwright Dhruva Harsh has repeatedly stated he is a self-taught director. Over the course of his career, he has released and staged various of his plays such as “The Burning Instinct” (2012) and “Che – a Romantic Revolutionary” (2013), but with regards to his latest short film “Harshit” a different play should be mentioned. In his 2014 play “Cigarette and Shakespeare” a scholar becomes addicted to the poetry and plays of the Bard similar to a smoker’s craving for cigarettes. While this play, the fact that he is the editor of Asian Signature, a magazine for poetry and poetics, as well as him being a poet, perhaps “Harshit” can be considered as a bow to someone who must be one of the greatest influences of writers all around the world.

Inspired by “The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark”, the film tells the story of Harshit (Satyajeet Dubey), a Hindu, and Rahila (Diksha Juneja), a young Muslim woman, who have fallen in love with each other. Even though their families and friends are highly critical of the relationship, especially Harshit would like nothing more than to make their love official. However, as their affection becomes more obvious to Rahila’s family, tragic events occur which will have disastrous consequences for the couple and their friends and relatives.

As a short film inspired by one of the most famous plays of all times, one expects a certain level of similarity. However, Harsh’s film manages to be an entertaining blend of Shakespeare’s play, along with the layers of symbolism it contains, as well as a story heavily influenced by Indian culture. The setting of Mumbai is the perfect “stage” for a story defined by heavy emotions, drama and the kind of universal conflict which is at the core of a narrative foundation such as this.

Similar to its foundation, “Harshit” takes on the theme of family, but puts in within the context of religious conflict. Without having met Rahila, the viewer receives one of the first impressions of her through the heated conversations of the main character with his two friends who seem to be irritated by their friend’s lover. Warning him about the various dangers and pitfalls a liaison like this could have, of course Harshit remains not only stubborn in his love but also defensive, to the point of taking violent action. Even though he may be inspired by the famous prince of Denmark, the temperamental, passionate performance by Satyajeet Dubey may reflect another character of the British poet whose home is in the sunny streets of Verona, Italy. And as for Juneja’s character resembling that of Julia, you only need to watch the romantic scenes between her and Dubey to find an answer to that question.

Visually, the images Ankur Rai’s camera captures along with the use of sound capture a strong sense of foreboding and tension. As the camera follows one of the characters through the narrow streets of Mumbai, the vendors looking for interested customers and people gossiping as one walks by, the possibility of conflict is present at every corner. At the same time, the various symbols and colors used in every frame suggest the depths of affection, but also hidden hatred some of the characters feel for each other, especially as friends become enemies and start to fight one another.

Given the somewhat open ending to the film, you wish Dhruva Harsh would eventually turn his short film into a feature film, giving him more opportunities to explore these characters, these places and these conflicts. In any case, “Harshit” is a wonderful interpretation of its inspiration with great performances and images which will certainly please those familiar with the Bard, but also those in search for great drama and romance.

Sources:
http://asiansignature.com/about-us/ , last accessed on: 03/28/2019

Advertisement
Ever since I watched Takeshi Kitano's "Hana-Bi" for the first time (and many times after that) I have been a cinephile. While much can be said about the technical aspects of film, coming from a small town in Germany, I cherish the notion of art showing its audience something which one does normally avoid, neglect or is unable to see for many different reasons. Often the stories told in films have helped me understand, discover and connect to something new which is a concept I would like to convey in the way I talk and write about films. Thus, I try to include some info on the background of each film as well as a short analysis (without spoilers, of course), an approach which should reflect the context of a work of art no matter what genre, director or cast. In the end, I hope to pass on my joy of watching film and talking about it.