“Khayolfurush” (also known as “The Illusion Seller”) is the fifth film by Tajik filmmaker Sharofat Arabova, and was created on a financial grant from the Embassy of Republic of India to the Republic of Tajikistan.
The script is based on the short story Kabuliwala, by the Indian poet and musician Rabindranath Tagore, and focuses on Kabir, an Indian travelling salesman who visits a small village near Dushanbe, selling jewelry, scarves, perfumes and Bollywood DVD. As we watch him roaming the narrow streets of the village, we also listen to a girl narrating, who is soon revealed to be Zukhro, a local girl who shares her memories of the man. The rest of the children are both afraid and intrigued by Kabir, but the girl, who also ponders at how they act like men and Kabir as a child occasionally, does not share the first sentiment, and soon is found hanging with him on her own. Her parents do not like her attitude, since she is considered an adult despite her young age, and forbid her from meeting him on her own. Years pass, and a troubled Kabir, who is on the run from the police, returns to the village and to Zukhro, although not in a fashion the viewer and her parents expect.
Sharofat Arabova directs a short that moves in two directions, with the concept of Kabir providing the entertainment (and the base if you prefer) and the narration of Zukhro the mostly social comments. The most central one revolves around the concept of how society expects people and particularly women to behave, leading them to “a guise of womanhood and seriousness” as stated in the film. The depiction of the misunderstanding in the end seems to stress the futility of this general attitude even more. On a more subtle comment, that could be perceived as political, Arabova has Kabir being on the run from the police after shoving an Afghan.
Zainulabuddin Wasekhov’s cinematography is quite good, with his camera following Kabir from various angles, in a style very close to that of documentaries, while the beauties of the area, particularly regarding the women’s attires and the various tapestries are also highlighted. Arabova’s own editing induces the film with a relatively slow pace, and in combination with Somali Panda’s music induces the short with an almost ritualistic atmosphere that suits its aesthetics quite nicely.
Pushpendra Singh as Kabir is captivating, highlighting both his child-like character and his struggles with equal artistry. Zukhrobonui Musozoda as little Zukhro is also convincing in communicating her feelings and thoughts through her silences.
“Khayolfurush” is an engaging short, that manages to communicate its comments quite eloquently in its 22 minutes.