In Anu, a woman is forced to come to terms with her grief in isolation - Hindustan Times
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In Anu, a woman is forced to come to terms with her grief in isolation

May 11, 2024 03:06 PM IST

Pulkit Arora's Anu, now available on MUBI, is a short film that revolves around how a middle-aged woman deals with loneliness during the covid-19 pandemic.

In Pulkit Arora's Anu, grief and mourning find a channel of release through one's faith. In a matter of 13 minutes, this intelligent short film distills its action within the periphery of one hotel room in New Zealand, where a middle-aged woman named Anu deals with the passing away of her husband. We know only this much, and that is enough. There's also another key detail – she is in quarantine. The world might be in complete shutdown, but what about the grief? She does not know the answers to shut down that grief. The subject of isolation – physical and mental – becomes a compelling reminder of human persistence in Anu, which released on MUBI INDIA. (Also read: Manjummel Boys is not flawless, barely survives in its search of a great tale on friendship)

Prabha Ravi in a still from Anu.
Prabha Ravi in a still from Anu.

The small hotel compartment where she first arrives seems eerily welcoming. She has her welcome note, a bed, as well as a table and chair beside the glass window. Through brief voice messages, we are informed about the details of the ceremony that is imminent in a few days. But things do not evolve according to plan and Anu has to cope with the loss without anyone to share.

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What is so immediately striking about Arora's film is the emphasis on movements and silences. We do not see Anu express her grief as much as she discovers it herself. The contrast emerges through the stripped-back setting, the minimal use of dialogue, and the compartmentalisation of the frames. In DOP Adam Luxton's lens, the apartment itself is a sum of its parts for Anu. Where she tries to make sense of her days with orchestrated tasks – like solving a crossword puzzle, sitting down on the bed late, and opening the door to receive packaged food from outside. Where is her perspective in these scenes? Perhaps it exists as a blur, where these rudimentary tasks begin to make some shape to her shapeless, porous sense of grief.

When Anu does try and take some agency to bring a sense of closure to this unattended period of mourning, it results in a security concern. The pind-daan ritual, which Anu persists in executing on her own, lends a morbid sense of humour to the narrative when it does not go according to plan again. Arora does well in the next scene by fixing the gaze strictly on Anu, sitting by the corner of her room. Her wordless gaze is enough to express that this ritual does not have to make sense to anyone else, except her. It is her only way of expressing grief and a sense of loss. It provides her with purpose, with intention.

Anu pivots around navigating personal grief and turns a quiet reminder of how there's no one way in the expression of the thing called grief. Grief is personal but here, linked with the construct of quarantine, deeply political as well. The pandemic is a phenomenon that exists outside the walls of Anu, but is an everlasting presence throughout. Anu does not know how to make of sense of that either. Perhaps she will, in some time. Can we, as a society, ever outgrow its catastrophic impact?

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