Sparsh review: Kay Kay Menon's short film gets caught up in its half-hearted social commentary

Anupam Kant Verma

Mar 15, 2019 10:33:32 IST

Sparsh, the new Large Short Film, has a very Indian story to tell. Ankoosh Bhatt’s film is about the occasions when the illusion of justice having been served is more important than justice itself. Occasions that rise from events whose apparent simplicity floats above a complex web of connections often discernible only to the wise and the patient. Once observed, their fragile intricacy appears so forbidding to the sage mind that they exercise extreme caution while meddling with them, even choosing to bend the rules of engagement to avoid unleashing a storm.

Sparsh review: Kay Kay Menons short film gets caught up in its half-hearted social commentary

Kay Kay Menon in a still from Sparsh. YouTube

Kay Kay Menon’s short-tempered cop on the verge of voluntary retirement faces a similar tricky situation in Sparsh. He is visibly tired of the compliance and genuflection that comes with the job. So when he is called out to a couple of routine cases over the course of a night, he simply wants to resolve them quickly and move on. Things take a delicate turn when a woman alleges that her cab driver misbehaved and touched her without her permission. When Menon’s attempts at a quick resolution fail to satisfy the woman, he takes everyone to the police station where the seemingly simple case soon unspools the strands of class, religion and entitlement that underscore modern Indian life.

Strangely, the director seems to be unaware of the potential of the story he has in his hands. He proceeds to treat the script in accordance with the requirements of the generic title chosen for the film. The wealth of issues and narrative strands that could have been pursued—one may say are pursued, but not as much as they deserved—are lost beneath the flotsam of the images. Menon’s acting pedigree often gives us glimpses of what this script could have been in the hands of a more assured, imaginative, daresay bold director. The rest of the cast works its way through the roles, plodding through the cliche ridden execution of a script that does a commendable job of raking up multiple issues within a limited runtime.

Sparsh could have been a penetrating exploration of the loss incurred when justice is translated from the typed page to the muck of real life in a developing country bedazzled by the advent of modernity. Not that it isn’t. But the tonal discordance it undergoes owing to the worn out message of humanity’s triumph against all odds that’s thrust upon it spoils its true potential. Once you’ve stepped into that zone, the preachers’ robes are only around the bend. And the bend arrives in due time, reliably undoing the final stretch of an otherwise fine effort.

But Sparsh, or Happy Birthday, as I’d like to title it, asks a lot of questions before it submits to the twin evils of co-incidence and cliche. It is neither old wine in a new bottle nor a film that seeks to exploit the latest trends for material benefit. Menon’s presence alone could have justified its existence, further bolstered by Prashant Narayanan’s short act that provides glimpses of his tremendous potential. It urges you to look before you leap, examine a situation carefully and never accept anything for its face value.

Sparsh is a deeply flawed film. Too caught up in its stated mission of delivering a message for quick consumption, it loses sight of its true self. But if, like Menon, you manage to look beyond the obvious, its true self suffices to set it apart from the product oriented storytelling that’s lately become the norm.

Rating: ***

Updated Date: Mar 15, 2019 10:33:32 IST