Starring: Gulshan Devaiah, Saiyami Kher; Richa Chadha, Ishwak Singh; Lillete Dubey, Rinku Rajguru; Abhishek Banerjee, Geetika Vidya Ohlyan; Ratna Pathak Shah and Shardul Bharadwaj
Directors: Raj and DK, Nikhil Advani, Tannishtha Chatterjee and Nitya Mehra
This anthology of five separate but inextricably linked, so-called ‘Unpaused’, short films bring together a range of Indian acting and filmmaking talent together. The thread that connects them is the coronavirus lockdown and the shared experiences of coping with a global pandemic.
The first in the series of films is titled ‘Glitch’, crafted as a futuristic tale of where things might get to if deadly viruses become a never-ending part of our daily lives. Ahan (Devaiah) and Ayesha (Kher) try an extremely advanced form of online dating, with holograms and virtual reality filling in for actual dates. Their initial clash of views gradually transforms into the makings of a love story, albeit warped by a world losing its fight against a deadly virus.
‘The Apartment’ revolves around Devika (Chadha) alone in her apartment, attempting suicide by hanging but every time she gets her dupatta looped through a ceiling fan a doorbell interrupts her plan. At the door she finds annoying neighbour Chirag (Singh), who is complaining about her leaking balcony plants. Meanwhile, the audience gets to know the reason behind Devika’s despondency is less to do with the lockdown and more with the #MeToo allegations against her husband and work partner. Will Devika succeed in her suicide plan?
‘Rat-a-Tat’ is the story of how a rat infestation brings grumpy old lady Archana (Dubey) around to the idea of allowing someone into her solitary life. When she hesitantly allows her neighbour, film set designer Priyanka (Rajguru), into her own home until the errant rat has been vanquished, it has a life-transforming effect not only on her but also the young girl.
‘Vishanu’ involves a poor migrant worker couple stranded on the empty , with no work and unable to find a way of getting back to their village with their little boy. They resort to the only possible option – to squat in the fancy show flat in a new under-construction development of the city, which they have been helping build. Their longing to get back to their real home remains a strong pull even as they make the best of their usurped luxurious life and have some fun dancing sessions, which they can’t resist uploading on to Tik Tok.
Finally, ‘Chand Mubarak’ tells the story of autorickshaw driver Rafique (Bharadwaj) unable to get to his wife and kids in time for Eid. But a chance encounter with Uma (Pathak Shah) paves the way for an unlikely and moving friendship across class and religious divides.
This offering strikes an instant chord with its theme of lockdown, which has a universal resonance at the moment. While ‘Glitch’ falls a little short compared to the other four, the heart-warming narration and in the mini-features mostly hit the right notes.
The simple and very topical themes – from the dispassionate world of online dating and the exploitative #MeToo landscape to our obsession with social media and the alienation of big city life – ‘Unpaused’ is a worthy commentary on our locked down lives.