A scene from the short film “Anukul”
By Siddhartha Krishnan . 5 Min Read
The great short story writer, Edgar Allan Poe once said, “A short story must have a single mood and every sentence must build towards it.” I would like to believe that this logic holds for short films as well since they are visual adaptations of short stories albeit not written in that format. To make a good short film, therefore, is a subtle art and not an easy task. Filmmakers often fall into the trap of trying too many things in a short film, thereby, leaving the audience confused at the end of the experience.
An early example of a good short film from India could be the legendary Satyajit Ray’s “Two”. Released in 1964, in “Two”, Ray shows the interaction between two kids—one rich and the other poor, without a word been spoken (there are no dialogues). He employs simple techniques to deliver the message across without making the screenplay boring. It’s a must watch for cinema lovers and is available on YouTube.
Satyajit Ray during the shooting of “Two”
Of late a plethora of short films have hit our micro screens, all thanks to YouTube and the instant reach it promises. As a result, established, independent and amateur Indian filmmakers have all jumped on the bandwagon to explore the possibilities. Since, the risk is comparatively less, established filmmakers have used this opportunity to explore topics which they otherwise would not have touched in commercial cinema. While amateur filmmakers have ceased the opportunity to showcase their talent and grab eyeballs. Social media platforms are then used to market and promote these films. What we get at the end of it are hundreds of short films in multiple Indian languages and picking good films from this endless list is a bit like searching for a needle in a haystack.
However, this is the task that I have undertaken, but I have decided to make things easier for myself by sticking to one language ie. Hindi. This is not to say that good short films have not been made in other languages. Also, my list does not include some of the more famous short films which you might have already seen like “Ahalya”, “Devi” or “Chutney” which have garnered millions of views on YouTube. Those were all interesting short films; however, I will be recommending films which may have missed the radar but surely deserve your attention.
Note – I have tried to keep the descriptions as spoiler free as possible.
10. Lost and Hound:
A scene from “Lost and Hound”
Sunanda’s seemingly mundane life in a bungalow on the outskirts of the city is interrupted one day when she is visited by a suspicious cop. There is a subtle social commentary in this cleverly written thriller, the ending of which, has eerie similarities to the Oscar winning “Parasite”.
9. Int Café – Night:
A scene from “Int Cafe – Night”
This is a heart-warming reunion story of two old timers. The standout feature of the screenplay is how the past and the present has been depicted beautifully in the same frame.
8. Khyali Pulao:
A scene from “Khyali Pulao”
This is a charming little tale of a girl and her unrealistic dream. From the very onset we know that the girl is heading nowhere with her ambition, however, as an audience you are still invested in her journey. It is a quintessential film about nothing, as in, it does not have any specific message to deliver, which is what makes this film stand out. To make such films entertaining is a difficult task and the film surely delivers on that count.
A scene from “Suno”
The misadventures of the previous night (not shown in the film) has left an unwanted “mark” in the life of a young couple. Now they are trying to find ways to deal with it. This is a strange little film on a familiar theme; however, it asks some difficult questions. The screenplay is fresh and is bound to make you feel uncomfortable.
A scene from “Dhund”
Set in 1958 in an old Punjabi town near the Indo-Pak border, the film examines the horrors of partition through a humanistic approach. It starts off with the family patriarch holding a pistol to his son’s head over a drink. Mind you he has never touched alcohol before that event. But his intention is to revisit an incident that had happened a decade ago and to unravel a few truths.
A scene from “Anukul”
Directed by Sujoy Ghosh and based on a short story by the same name written by Satyajit Ray, Anukul is a futuristic film on the conflict between humans and artificial intelligence. But the scenes of this film do not unfold in a post-apocalyptic world instead much of it plays out in a living room. What’s more the “Gita” too finds a place in the narrative!
A scene from “Juice”
A party hosted by Manju (Shefali Shah) and her husband seems like any other get together of friends until it comes to an unexpected ending. Directed by Neeraj Ghaywan (Dir of “Masaan”) this is a powerful film with a strong social message.
A scene from “Kahanibaaz”
This a thriller with many layers. Its intention is to show the impact of domestic abuse on children. The over the shoulder shot in the end showing the perspective of the child, thereby, helping the audience to connect all the dots, is one of the highlights of the film. Watch the film for the superlative performance of Ashish Vidyarthi in the lead role.
A scene from “Guest”
Much through this wonderfully conceptualized film we are left to wonder – what is the catch? This is a great example of how a short film should be written. Without being extravagant the film delivers the requisite punch leaving the audience stunned at the end of it.
A scene from “Tokri”
“Tokri” is not in any particular language. I am including it in this list because of the world that its characters belong to.
An unintentional accident leads a little girl to the streets of Mumbai to set things right. The premise of the film seems mundane and you may be right. But what is bound to surprise you is the level of detailing of this stop motion animation film directed by prolific animator Suresh Eriyat. The way every little detail of the Mumbai streetscape has been captured is spellbinding. Again, a film without any specific message but which is bound to leave a smile on your face at the end of it.
The level of detailing of the Mumbai streetscape
The film has won multiple awards in International film festivals and has also won a National award for best non-feature animation film. It apparently took eight years to complete.
Please note that all the above films are available on YouTube for free viewing.
Pic credits: scroll.in, filmcompanion.com, IMDb, shortoftheweek.com and YouTube.