Adwaita movie review: This Large Short Films release remains soulless, directionless and pointless
Devoid of ideas and inspiration, Adwaita stumbles towards a pathetic, violent end not unlike its drunken protagonist.
Adwaita, which released recently on YouTube, was among the Perfect 10 winners presented by Large Short Films at MAMI 2018. It sets out to explore domestic violence by using the tried and tested trope of good and evil residing within the same person. Almost exclusively shot inside a dingy little dark room, it features a cast of three or four actors who speak Haryanvi fluently and convincingly. That’s about all the good that can be written about this 19-odd minute short film.
A father and son have a heated conversation in front of a girl whom the father kidnapped earlier that day. In a series of flashbacks, director Manwar Rana reveals the father’s proclivity for physical violence directed towards his late wife and their son. The visibly meek son learns a secret or two during the conversation and predictably proceeds to finally stand up to the tyrant. Mother’s gentle voice-over reminding him about a person’s capacity for being Ram or Raavan floats cumbrously over the poorly stylised images.
Adwaita never manages to become anything more than another assembly line product aiming to capitalise on trending topics. It has nothing new to add to a cultural conversation whose significance deserves a more considered artistic response. Its depiction of women’s struggles and the violence they undergo in rural areas is executed with scant regard for the urgency of the issue it seeks to address. The acting, with the possible exception of the father, and that too in patches, is pathetic. One can overlook the production design in a modestly budgeted film but not the lazy cinematography and aimless direction that brings the house down. The creators had a wonderful opportunity to employ light and shadow in this dark room lit by a dim source to explore the psyches of the verbally sparring protagonists as they hurtle towards a violent end. But in the absence of a vision and an interesting story, Adwaita remains soulless, directionless and pointless.
There is no dearth of films that seek to engage with urgent or important ideas in an arbitrary, poor manner. Some of them are even earnest at heart. But the simplistic engagement with pressing issues only serves to diminish the significance of the movements that seek to sustain their relevance in the public discourse. These movements’ communal aspect is weighed down by opportunism, thereby offering the strongest argument against these films. In effect, these films are their own worst endorsers and strongest critics.
Adwaita’s use of the binaries of good and evil within the context of domestic violence, however well-meaning it may be, is utterly ignorant about the simplistic nature of binaries. Then there are the silent, suffering women marginalised even within the film that seeks to expose the violence that befalls them. Finally, there’s the passing on of the torch of adopting a moral choice between the binaries, which, in this film, lies squarely and exclusively with men. One can argue for the realistic nature of the film’s narrative. But one cannot ignore the lack of self-awareness and cumbersome filmmaking that belies the film’s central concern.
Long story short, Adwaita is a short video that seeks to belong to its time but ends up doing the exact opposite. Devoid of ideas and inspiration, it stumbles towards a pathetic, violent end not unlike its drunken protagonist.
Watch Adwaita here:
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