The Black Cat review: Tom Alter's last movie transcends beyond a Children's Day short film
On the occasion of Children's Day, Bhargav Saikia released his short film The Black Cat, a supernatural drama based on a short story by Ruskin Bond.
A typical children's film, The Black Cat stars the late Tom Alter and Shernaz Patel in key roles. While the short starts on a supernatural note, with a black cat staring into a closet accompanied by thumping background music, it soon assumes a lighter tone.
A slice of life setup follows as Alter, in the role of Ruskin Bond, visits an old store looking for some second-hand objects. He ends up purchasing a worn out broom after the shopkeeper convinces that the object has a unique 'character' to it. As Bond returns to his bungalow, he is chased by a black cat which creates a havoc inside the house.
Ms Bellows, played by Patel, visits Bond the next day and informs him that the broomstick rightfully belongs to her. As the broom reunites with its rightful owner, an extraordinary events unfold, much to the surprise of Bond.
As far as the direction is concerned, the short film skilfully tiptoes on the fine line between a slice of life drama and fantasy fiction. While Alter brings subtlety to the screen, Patel counters it with her theatrics. Being a children's film, the short is pitched on a high note but it has a little fodder for adults too, given their will and ability to read between the lines.
For example, this writer perceived the black cat as a symbol of the writer's block. As the black cat creates a mess out of Bond's home, the elderly writer is unable to churn out thoughts for his next book. He dumps paper after paper in the bin, till he finally decides to chase the problem and figure out a solution.
The solution, this writer perceives, is the arrival of Ms Bellows and what ensues thereafter. Given the polar opposite genres this short flirts with, the supernatural elements could merely be an extension of Bond's imagination after he eventually overcomes the writer's block.
Equal credit must go to the production designer for painting such beautiful and detailed spreads of Bond's house, the store and the witch's yard. The cinematography is fast paced and the editing is razor sharp in the chase scene. But the film loses out majorly when both the director and the editor decide to not do away the last scene, which does nothing for the film.
The last scene, in fact, extends the short film to almost 20 minutes while the makers could have easily trimmed it for a crisper output. Patel, given the nuances she brings to the table in every performance, is underutilised.
But the film, at its heart, is a befitting tribute to the great actor Alter who passed away a couple of months ago. Since he shares his origin with Bond, he is tailor-made for the role and adds his irresistible charm to the character. Overall, The Black Cat is a film made for children but the adults may find their share of magic there too.