In a 4-minute short film, Suraj Vilas Dalvi incites the viewer to participate in a short exercise on language, something we use every day but hardly think about. For the layman, very few movies might deal with something like this, it’s a trope almost overused in short films and experimental cinema.
However, the lack of novelty could be atoned for with an interesting enough film or a new spin on an existing idea. The film deserves credit for trying but the answer to whether it succeeds is not overwhelmingly affirmative. This short is primarily about a couple of average guys, presumably Mumbaikers, who are sitting in the corner of a restaurant suitable for some inexpensive drinking sessions, wanting to get a refill. Yes, that’s all it takes to incite the main action of the movie, nothing else. However, this unimportant action leads to tension between friends over language, revealing deep-seated animosities between them and with how society perceives people in general.
While one thinks that the reason the waiter finally paid attention to them was him using English, the idea is particularly revolting to the other friend. Before you know it, expletives are used liberally as is common among aggressively inebriated friends and once each other’s mother’s name is dragged into it, the issue is bound to flare up. This exchange is authentic as real-life situations are likely to play out similarly and a nice touch is added when the characters switch between languages. The switch is in keeping with the theme as the second friends switches to authentic, unfiltered, local lingo to counter the argument in favour of English. However, the expletives are a tad too overused in my opinion.
The exchange is also relevant as it reveals linguistic privileges in India associated with knowledge and use of English. Language ceases to be a tool of communication and becomes one of discrimination as one’s class, caste, social and economic standing is revealed through it.
To this extent, the film is relevant and coherent. The issue lies with the resolution which is random, simplistic and possibly problematic owing to the power-dynamic, the details of which you could discover for yourself. There is nothing new said here, no new perspective and how it is played out is also uninteresting. Also, one could point out the flaws in its making. Most short films are amateur productions but real skill lies in making sure that it at least doesn’t look amateur. This is particularly in keeping with the sound design and faulty sound cuts, as getting the sound right is usually more challenging than the visual elements. But film is an audio-visual medium and hence both must be right to create an easy experience.
As far as the film is concerned, making such a film on a shoestring budget is credible on its own and a lot of it was interesting, but there definitely should have been more to it.