Sunday, November 10, 2013

Arbhaat short film club: 8th session

The 8th session of Arbhaat Short film club took place on the 7th. The theme was 'Gender'. Even though I had received the programme note beforehand, I had not had the time to go through it. So when I turned up at NFAI, I had my own preconceived notions about what type of films might be screened.

Gender - the very word evokes a dichotomy - male and female, man and woman. I was expecting something on these very lines - gender discrimination, female foeticide or violence on women, maybe. I had even wondered about the gender roles in India, juxtaposed against that in the rest of the world.

But the films were entirely different, and delightfully so. Instead of taking on these issues, which nonetheless important, the films touched a different range of issues altogether, which, though concerned intimately with the theme of gender, are hardly at the forefront of discussions on it.

But before, a short film on the life of Pandit Vishnu Digambar Paluskar was shown. It was a good short film, informative and interesting.

Undress me
Sweden, 2012, 15 minutes
Victor Lindgren

A man and a woman are talking in the club - obviously attracted to each other. She has pretty blonde hair, an oval face with strong cheekbones, and he has dark hair. He remarks time and again on her height, her deep voice as they leave the club to go to a burger joint.

She confesses that she is a transgender and had changed her sex three years ago.

This is the pivotal moment in the film. There is no drumroll, no emotional musical cresendo which highlights its importance. The film, the characters do not change.

You do. As soon as she said those words, I began looking for the man in her. It was wrong of me, I suppose, and the realisation was momentous - was I judging her? No, of course not.

But by looking for the man, I was questioning the women she was, I was questioning her identity.

I suppose this is what most transgender experience everyday - the discrimination, the stares, perhaps the sniggers. The film takes a look at one side of being a transgender - the emotional connect.

As Prof Nakhate later said, the gender divide is permeable. It is osmotic. It is neither rigid nor definite. We have defined it. We have separated people into groups and the pointed at those who do not conform to the norms laid down by us.

The film then proceeds to show the interaction between Mikaela, and the guy. Even though they are undressed, they just talk. At the end of the movie, the guy, who's about to leave tells her, "You seem like a nice girl." She nods and closes the door, and then looks straight into the camera. Her expression is indescribable. Though he says that she 'seems' like a nice girl, she has not been yet accepted as a 'girl'.

Sexy thing
Australia, 2006, 14 minutes
Denie Pentecost

This film is a perfect example of how a story can be told with pictures alone. Apart from the opening lines, there is hardly any dialogue in the film.

Swimming in deliciously blue water, lying on hot tin roofs, a bedroom plastered with dreams of the sea. The longing for the sea, set against the dry, hot Australian echoes the same turmoil withing Georgie, a girl of about 12. She is assaulted by her own father, and the pain and rage is intersped with the escapist dreams of the sea. Her mother is driving, her brother is in the backseat-occasionally crying, but mostly asleep, and Georgie is in the passenger seat. The hot air is stifling, it blows in from the theatre screen straight into your mind, the flashes of the water become your salvation too.

It is the climax that is horrifying. While Georgie's reaction to the incident is apparent, we don't know what to make of the mother - she sobs, swears and rages by turn.

And then, when the car finally comes to a stop at Georgie's grandparents' house, her mother turns towards her and says, "We're here." The blue and red lights of the police car flash in the background and the police siren wails deafeningly.

Then we see the blood on her arms, and the wails of the father become clear.

A beautiful, amazing short film.

La Santa (The blessed)
Chile, 2012, 14 minutes 
Mauricio López Fernández


A thirteen year old intersex girl, Maria is forced by her father to play the incarnation of Virgin Mary during the village festival, to 'fix' her. She is reluctant to get 'fixed', and believes that peeing while standing up not a bad idea at all. She snips away a portion of her hair every night - her own personal rebellion - but dresses up like a girl, except for her pair of boxers.

Moi Marjaani
India, 2012, 20 minutes
Anubhuti Kashyap

Mona, a single Punjabi mom runs a cyber cafe in Patiala. She often talks with Paresh ji, a man she has met online, who lives in Bombay. The film was was really very funny both subtly and overtly. It was a brief relief from the heavy movies that had been screened earlier, but was nevertheless charming in its own manner.

Call it slut
India, 2006, 14 minutes
Nishitha Jain


Laxmi Narayan Tripathi is no stranger to the public eye. In this film, which portrays her outrageous, truthful, and quite interesting views, she becomes more than a person and almost a phenomenon. I loved her views, she is honest and fearless.

But at the same time, I was also struck by her flamboyance. The contrast of Laxmi's flamboyance and Mikaela's understated appearance is interesting. Mikaela is trying to fit in, trying to be one of the crowds, and desperately wants to be accepted. On the other hand, I felt that Laxmi, quite used to the middle class morality and the hypocrisy that exists in our society, flaunts her persona even more, to show that she is unafraid. She knows she is going to be drawing eyes anyway, so why not do it with style?

I was quite delighted by this screening, and it gave much food for thought. One of the best sessions yet!


  1. I am going to say that you're welcome, even though I am still in the dark about the reason for your gratitude :D

  2. I wasn't able to attend the session this time...and these reviews make me feel even worse!!
    Well written :)