Binnu Ka Sapna review: Kanu Behl's wickedly intelligent short film is rooted in endless empathy for the ordinary
Binnu Ka Sapna goes above and beyond being a mere depiction of the violent underpinnings of families, societies, nations and civilisations at large.
Binnu Ka Sapna, Kanu Behl’s new short film, depicts the majoritarian narrative slouching towards the Bethlehem of a young man’s mind, patiently injecting its poison into it, which simmers and boils inside him for years before spilling over into the real world in an act of uncontrollable desperation and rage. Behl charts the spread of a slow rot that infects and lays to waste the dream it had birthed in the first place. He uses the story of a young man who has had the heirloom of violence thrust upon him to explore the spread of this rot across contemporary society. A rot birthed, inherited and nurtured by multiple fathers wielding varying degrees of influence.
Binnu is a young man who dreams of a normal life away from the suffocating presence of his violent father. He wants to escape the clutches of a conservative lower middle class life spent tamely viewing television, suffering his father’s wrath and the cups of tea that follow them. For a moment, a clerical job seems like the way out. It also gives him his first sexual experience. But it ends up with him feeling spurned in love. This romantic failure sets off a series of disappointments. He turns more and more indignant, misogynist, and full of suspicion and anger. This culminates in an incident of horrific violence that brings Binnu’s life full circle, extinguishing another flame that once held promise.
Binnu Ka Sapna is a natural extension of Behl’s illuminating studies of violence and alienation. However, to this reviewer, the intricacies of the relationship between the viewer and the film form the most fascinating aspect of this 32-minute short. Behl uses a 1:1 aspect ratio — think of it as viewing a square image — for his film, a constant voiceover throughout its duration, a grating, disorienting background score and the occasional, strategically placed frozen frame. Everything meticulously designed to reflect Binnu’s mindscape. It also has the effect of bringing us as close as possible to experiencing the darkness gathering inside his mind and its tragic unraveling. We are not mere witnesses to Binnu’s life. We feel the rhythm of his thoughts, the simmering anger, the moments of tenderness occasionally breaking through it, all above the dim but constant ticking of the time bomb that we know will explode soon. Due in part to Behl’s careful calibration of narrative screws, we always know how this will end. And that, in pure tragic vein, gives the film its lasting power and significance.
But there are also moments where the camera is depicted as the television set that Binnu and his father gaze into. Fluids of varying types and significance fall and spread over the frame at important junctures. Finally, there is the key moment right at the end where Binnu turns around, teacup in hand, looks into the camera and offers tea. Tea holds a special significance in the film. His father offers it to his mother after every beating, Binnu himself offers it to a woman after he has sex with her, and images of tea simmering in a pan are used to reflect Binnu’s state of mind. It is an inspired choice of symbol that brings masculinity, violence, sexuality, and to those who get it, the body politic within its fold. The last shot, in particular, sums up the complicated nature of the relationship Behl establishes between the viewer, the film and Binnu. From witnesses to the accused to participants and victims, a complex trajectory is created, thereby making it a truly significant artistic document for our times.
Binnu Ka Sapna goes above and beyond being a mere depiction of the violent underpinnings of families, societies, nations and civilisations at large. It is a wickedly intelligent film rooted in endless empathy for the fate of ordinary people, both the innocent and those led astray by false promises. Crucially, it is not simply about the burden of dreams. A poignant sequence from the film comes to mind. Binnu traipses through the narrow lanes of the city at night, his sight cannonaded by shiny things, trinkets and cheap jewellery, tiny promises flooded by artificial light. He comes to a halt in front of store where he sees the woman he loves shopping with another man. Behl shows us Binnu’s POV, the couple framed within seemingly cheap, shiny stuff, a wall of glass separating him from those who appear too far away. Binnu gets angrier and angrier, starts looking for solace in the comforts of victimhood disguised as strength, all the more lonelier now, and proceeds to destroy two lives, one of them his own. In a system that seeks to undernourish by design, the smallest pops make the loudest noise, which, unfortunately, is lost in the din of the everyday. As Binnu Ka Sapna lays bare, you cannot cure what you fail to detect. Sometimes, seeing is not everything.
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