Knock Knock Knock review: Sudhanshu Saria's short is deliciously macabre with layered characters

Knock Knock Knock is Sudhanshu Saria's latest offering in the genre of a psychological thriller that charts the sudden friendship between a Bengali man and a Nepalese boy

Shreya Paul September 15, 2020 13:10:29 IST


Acclaimed filmmaker Sudhanshu Saria delves into the space of a psychological thriller through his 38-minute short, Knock Knock Knock, in which a cryptic Bengali man's sudden acquaintance with a Nepalese boy leads to a series of uncomfortable events over the course of half an hour.

Set in Darjeeling, Knock Knock Knock places at its centre the heritage mountain-side cafe of Keventer's, standing pretty for years amidst the humdrum of the hill station's Upper and Lower Mall roads. Saria positions his protagonists within his hometown Darjeeling, infusing life into the city till it transcends to become a crucial player in the psychological chase.

The older Bengali man (Santilal Mukherjee) grabs viewers' attention when the opening credits roll. Keenly involved with developing a crossword, his fountain pen leaves significant marks over a pristine white sheet. Each box is coloured by hand and each letter is painstakingly adjusted to create the perfect word-jigsaw.

His steadfast concentration breaks when a Nepali boy (Phuden Sherpa) keeps staring at him, wanting an in into his world. After a reluctant introduction, the two set off on a delightful conversation about their quirks and how their lives revolve normally around these eclectic idiosyncracies.

Knock Knock Knock review Sudhanshu Sarias short is deliciously macabre with layered characters

Santilal Mukherjee as Dada in Knock Knock Knock

While one confesses to buying three sets of everything (and using them simultaneously so that they finish at the same time), the other declares that he makes a blot with his pen every time he sits with a new crossword. The blot, he claims, spells out the rest of the day for him, much like the horoscope columns in newspaper dailies.

The two are clearly other-worldly, finding patterns and meaning behind nature, man-made architecture, and the very existence of mankind. The man and the boy forge a bond on their oddities, they're both proud of their quirks, but only after their respective trysts with rejection and ostracisation. Their genius and methodical ways find little space in the quotidian affairs of others, who understand life only through a prism of monetary success and social stature.

Knock Knock Knock review Sudhanshu Sarias short is deliciously macabre with layered characters

Phuden Sherpa plays a Nepalese boy in the film

In a particularly vulnerable moment, the boy opens up to his dada (an affectionate term he addresses the man by) that he had contemplated ending his life. The mediocrity and normalcy of it pushed him to the periphery. He then admits, with a smile on his face, that he feels much better now, and has managed to overcome such dangerous urges.

A master of his own universe, Dada agrees that loneliness is a natural by-product of being 'different'. His stoic ways hardly crack on that account. He simply reacts to his new-found friend's confession with a, "I stopped caring about them."

However, on a closer look, one would easily find how the years of othering bore its weight on Dada's character. A product of continual judgement and probable trauma, his present self thrives in scepticism. A friendly gesture arouses doubt in his mind, worries him to consider the motive behind such familiarity. The boy's open-hearted frankness is the perfect contrast to Dada's lack of it.

Yet, they talk, bond over their love for outcasts. The empathy for a kindred spirit grows and they find their moment under the sun. All's well till the precisian within the man rouses its inevitable fangs. When challenged, his walls begin crumbling, and his sole area of solace threatens to disappear. A small suggestion from the boy completely unravels him and he comes undone. But his undoing lies not in his insecurities, but in his desperate need to protect what's his. From an audience point of view, you don't alienate yourself from the man after his vices take over. Instead, you understand where he coming from.

Saria injects layers into his characters. Dada's off-handish ways and need to stand out, obliterates the space for normal emotions. The boy, on the other hand, occupies a much more innocent realm. Both men are a sum total of the adversities they've faced, but only one has moulded it into a weapon for self-protection.

Knock Knock Knock is the perfect antidote to saccharine narratives on life and its meaningful bed of flowers, but it never rids the audience of entertainment.

Knock Knock Knock is currently streaming on Mubi.

Rating: ***1/2 

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