By Balkaran Singh
The art of a good short film is not an easy one to master – characters have to be introduced, built and made to seem interesting expeditiously, the hook presented almost right after if not at the same time, and a story told within minutes. There are shorts that are abstract which are built more around aesthetics and emotion, and these may operate unrestricted by most of the aforementioned parameters, but those that follow the linear anecdotal stream factor in most of them. Kathakaar is latter. And it is beautiful.
Prakash, who, by the way, is brilliantly played by Piyush Mishra (definitely more about him later), is a projectionist at movie theatre equipped with an old school projector – he IS a projectionist, and not simply employed to operate one. And he absolutely, and reverently, adores movies. However, with the theatre succumbing to the tentacles of modernization and acquisition (Yes… you, Globalism!), his becomes a redundant faculty. Distraught, and unemployed, he returns to his family village, to his one room house, to a life without stories, moving images, drama, without colour.
The life he’s had to leave and the life that he comes into, is remarkably created, mined and displayed by Abhimanyu Kanodia. Apart from his outstanding execution of the film, it becomes very evident that he is also the progenitor of the story, and has co-scripted the screenplay. It is a wonderfully descriptive and well-written script, and his direction of it seamless – whether Prakash is “projecting” at the movie theatre or reciting his version of movies in the village, we will be there with him, and for that journey we can thank Kanodia.
As for Monsieur Mishra, he is terrific in this short. Prakash is more than a projectionist, he is a kathakaar, a storyteller, and Mishra personifies him so well that in ten minutes, he makes us feel Prakash’s excitement, purposeless-ness, heartbreak, and his exuberance. I will never accept any other Prakash. He is that good.
With nuances aplenty, in image and sound, there will be those who might not be able to fully value Kathakaar and its excellent writing (subtitles here, as with any translation, do not embody the actual richness, and depth) – there are a lot of allusions to Bollywood movies and dialogue (Prakash is a projectionist, after all, and absolutely adores those movies). But this should not factor into your decision to watch it, as merely for its visual art and emotion, it’s worth the ticket, and more. Simply exceptional.
Besides consulting in the cultural, creative and communication spheres, Balkaran engages in social-justice and political drives. And writes. Among other things.