Thanks to YouTube, I recently chanced upon a reservoir of short films which I’m gorging on by the dozen. The duration of these films ranges from 15-30 minutes generally.
Subtle, impactful, thought-provoking and serious, these miniature movies have everything that you don’t get to see in the Indian cinema’s mainstream masala movies crammed with soulless songs, over the top dance sequences and dollops of overacting.
On top of that, you can watch them over a cup of coffee and by the time you’re having the last sip, you’re nearing the climax.
Some of these mini-movies can set your cranial juices flowing as you try to grapple with subtleties. But if you’re still not able to grasp the message, YouTube has a massive comments section where others can decipher it for you while giving their reviews.
Relatability of the storyline
It’s heartening to see how more and more people are attracted by this genre of filmmaking and that is primarily because of the simplicity and relatability of the storyline that these short films are based on.
One such relatable story is Sab Theek Hai featuring Madhoo of the Roja fame. There’s nothing subtle about this movie though — a straightforward storyline. But it’s relatable because the plot of the film is something that keeps unfolding all the time in our part of the world.
It’s a story of a young Indian wife, Madhu — married off abroad to a fellow Indian — who is grappling with an abusive marriage without letting her mother know about it. Every time the mother calls her and inquires about her well-being, the daughter says, “Sab theek hai — all is well.”
The mother on her part doesn’t tell her either that she too is facing problems including the deteriorating health and the subsequent death of her husband — Madhu’s father. Both the mother and the daughter don’t want to bother each other with their respective plights. Hence sab theek hai.
Towards the end, the protagonist has had enough of it after her husband brings his colleague to home and takes her straight to their bedroom while ordering Madhu to cook dinner for them. This outrageous act triggers Madhu into action and she decides to separate while simultaneously finding a job with a friend’s help. The film ends on an emotional mother-daughter reunion note.
There are far too many Madhus around the world, especially in the Subcontinent, who put up with all the ugliness of an abusive marriage without sharing it with their parents or friends or anyone else.
And by doing so, they not only subject themselves but every potential victim to grave injustices by perpetuating this criminal culture of silence. This miserable compromise through silence is so deep-seated that a large number of women continue to endure the pain and misery of a disaster dressed as marriage.
Resign to a bad marriage
We still see parents urging daughters to be strong which means to resign to a bad marriage, wait it out and hope for a miracle to happen. It just doesn’t help. Also, it’s not just the education but economic independence that gives a woman the leverage to challenge or walk out of a bad marriage. As long as a woman is economically dependent, it’s near impossible for her to stand up to an abusive relationship or leave it.
Sab Theek Hai encapsulates the pain of women trapped in bad marriages besides showing how remaining silent should never be an option. Madhu could come back home and bail herself and her mother out only when she got a job and was economically independent.
Another similar 18-minute long film is Everything Is Fine, casting Seema Pahwa as the lead. It portrays the stifling tribulations an everywoman has to put up with. Everything Is Fine ends with the protagonist walking away from a difficult marriage, taking in confidence her initially reluctant grown-up daughter who is working away from home.
With some minor exceptions, most of these new age movies are remarkably groundbreaking, So here’s a thumbs up to the avant garde filmmakers who’re setting new trends and, of course, to the brave women who stand up to abusive relationships and choose not to suffer in silence.
Shabir Hussain is a senior journalist based in India