Director: Sona Jain
Actors: Zoya Hassan, Sarita Choudhury, Adil Hussain
A beautiful woman with long black hair, in a green saree, sits alone in an open field while her little child pines to hold her by her arms. It’s a dream. And it occurs each night the six-year-old Shruti goes off to sleep. She wakes up quiet and grumpy in the mornings.
It’s not that her mother’s dead. She just behaves so differently now that the child’s convinced the lady of the house (with shorter hair now) is truly an alien, not her mother.
Sarita Choudhury (Kama Sutra, Mississippi Masala) plays that mom -- suitably depressing, and mildly scary to look at. The brooding dad, Adil Hussain, is an overworked surgeon. This actor appears, for some reason, second choice to either Kay Kay Menon or Naveen Andrews for the same role.
The li’l girl also has a cocky, elder brother, obsessed with the constellation Orion that he believes is a galaxy from where humanoids visit the Earth. The impressionable little sis buys the story. Lame make-believe and juvenile fantasies often make for dangerous weapons in a young mind. Cautious parents know this.
Eventually, the couple here takes the child over to a psychiatrist, a family friend.
It’s but the depressed mother who truly needs help. As does this dull, supposedly dysfunctional family. And the script, of course, which brings out precious little by way of back-stories, insight or sub-plots for us to care either for the mom of two, who chose to raise a family over chasing a dream (of becoming a professional singer); or the dad, who hopelessly mills around in his suit and loosened tie, waiting perhaps for his next emergency call from the hospital.
The wife “wants out”; so goes the popular American phrase. The kids sit clueless, at the breakfast table, at a dosa diner, on the beanbag, in bed… The premise of a nuclear family slowly falling apart is potent still. It’s the drama that’s not compelling enough.
Of the setting, cast and storyline, the filmmakers certainly get the first one right. Which isn’t too bad for starters. This recently migrated family lives in the Delhi of stately homes, Sablok Clinic's advertisements on dirty walls, and Chungwa for a popular Chinese joint in GK 2. Characters speak entirely in English, which but sounds written and rehearsed. Where sentences begin with a “therefore” and get delivered in a manner mostly staccato -- in a Shakespearean theatre sort of way. Better male actors, I suppose, could’ve raised the bar here.
No knock still. This is the sort of self-produced, independent, low-budget, boutique film that you go to niche film festivals for. They serve as fair audition tapes for better things to come. Hopefully. The little girl Zoya Hassan, from Delhi’s Vasant Valley School, I’m told, picked up the well-deserved best actress prize at an Asian Festival of First Films, in Singapore. I’m glad.