Carbon review: This short film offers intelligent, important sci-fi, let down by lazy execution
While the conceptualisation of the Carbon universe is immensely fascinating, the best it has to offer had already been served in the trailer.
Maitrey Bajpai and Ramiz Ilham Khan's science fiction short film Carbon paints a world that we all fear deep down. But by doing so, it gives us a sense of discomfort that is essential to shake us out of our complacency and ensure a greener future.
The short film, that intrigued viewers with its trailer, extends the same idea but fails to live up to the innovative premise. While the conceptualisation of this universe is immensely fascinating, despite the doom that it spells for the collective fate of humanity, the icing of the cake had already been served in the trailer.
What the short film captures interestingly is the back story of its protagonist Random, played by Jackky Bhagnani, who is also a co-producer of the film. The name of the character is itself so telling as it gives out the impression that the identity of humans holds little significance if they do not value sustainable development.
Random was born with a failed heart and was saved by an artificial one. This artificial heart proved to be a blessing in disguise eventually as he could use his licence to legally carry natural oxygen in the dystopian scenario where oxygen has become a commodity.
He ponders using this licence to smuggle oxygen in order to earn money that will help him to evacuate to Mars, the planet inhabited by the elite of Earth who had the means to leave their doomed homes behind. In his quest, Random runs into Yakub, a smuggler lord (played by Yashpal Sharma), a contract killer from Mars (played by Nawazuddin Siddiqui) and Pari, an escort who reveals herself to be a robot (played by Prachi Desai).
His encounters with all these three eccentric personalities, particularly Pari, changes his perspective towards his planet and the humans that inhabit it.
While the screenplay is quite inconsistent and a couple of plot points rather ambiguous, Carbon deserves to be lauded for two aspects — the idea it aims to hammer home and the brilliant concept that it uses to do so. But the innovative premise is what makes the ensuing lackluster drama so disappointing.
The production design, the music and the VFX have all been toned down in order to lend the film a deliberate synthetic appeal. This paints a gloomy picture of the Earth's future. Jackky turns out to be a revelation as he carries the short on his shoulders commendably, given his intense demeanor and restrained delivery.
Prachi is too expressive for a robot but it is nonetheless a visual delight to watch her on screen after a long time. Nawazuddin Siddiqui, who has a cameo in the short film, infuses life into this rather glum fare with his charged presence but it is certainly not one of his best acts.
Overall, Carbon is an important film as well as a good attempt at snap science fiction, a genre under-utilised in India today.
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