In “The Round Trip”, a roughly fifteen minute short film, director Priyam Chanda and writer Sushovan Dasgupta look to tackle the issues of identity, genealogy and rootlessness. These themes have been tackled on numerous occasions in films revolving around Non-resident Indians in both mainstream popular cinema and those films that lie outside it.
The plot revolves around an Indian Bengali woman, Sanaya, settled abroad, having found her cousin online through one of the web sites which help one trace one’s lost ancestry. The urge to discover her roots is juxtaposed with the decision that she and her husband Mihir are on the verge of making-whether to adopt or conceive naturally.
It is clearly an interesting theme which in itself would incite enough curiosity among viewers to give this movie a chance. To the film’s credit, it provides no easy answers and the characters we see are not easily judged, in fact they suffer on account of the weaknesses of those whose connections they seek. Hence, it is easy for the audience to be empathetic to these characters. The film, without saying much, raises questions about the nature of identity and the quest to find one’s roots. What does it mean to be connected by ties of blood? Are we always better off with the knowledge? What matters more, to find out, literally, who you are, or to discover it through the process of living?
There is the promise of a keen cinematic voice even though it is mostly shrouded here with technique that seems dodgy, derivative and not always convincing. There are jarring sound cuts in the film that divert attention from the story rather than add meaning. As far as narrative technique is concerned, the use of leit-motif and flashbacks are used well as the film finally comes full circle, as the title suggests.
In terms of authenticity, for the Indian viewer it is easy to relate to the conversational patterns and everyday beats of the Bengali way of life; however the film could have fared better if it had not solely set itself up for the revelation but also dealt with the void felt by the character of Sanaya, and her longing for a normal pregnancy and preoccupation with blood-relations.
I am tempted to call this film an honest attempt and hence worth checking out, however when one sees it, they’d inevitably hope it had gone the extra mile, both technically, and in terms of the story itself.