The short Gujarati Dhummas (Fog) by Nishi Media, awarded the BISFF for Oscar qualification in August. It begins with a scene whose meaning is gradually revealed. A woman is sitting in front of her laptop. The screen is blank except for his name – Mrinalini and the title of the book he is reviewing.
A collection of introductory essays by Mahadevi Verma, Srinkhala ki Kadiyan. She stared at him, her restless fingers showing her excitement, in the background her husband pleading for help. He sat motionlessly and refused to move. This may seem like a prelude to ditching, but the demeanour of a young woman delving into the early ideals of feminism and female subservience is before the lens of the film.
The media’s 19-minute film is set in a strange house in the afternoon.
The place is barren, apart from its three occupants – an older woman (Pramodini Nanavati), her boss and Mrinallini (Sonali Bhardwaj). When the nurse left on duty, Mrinallini took care of his widowed mother-in-law. Their relationship is uncertain, but it doesn’t matter.
The older woman lost her memory and needed to be reminded to remember. However, he recognized the book in Mrinalini’s hand. She had met Verma once, she said and remembered reading one of her poems to her husband. But what she doesn’t say is bound by the muscular chains of the patriarch. She is one of the many women the poet wrote about. And that, she also wants to be Mahadevi Verma.
Their conversations, which consist primarily of quotes from their past, are the film’s focus.
His sluggish memory without a drop of bitterness illuminates. The various contours of the oppression he once faced. When he was forced to guard the house while everyone else went to Delhi or would say nothing. In naming his eldest son.
This systematic repression came on suddenly after he confessed. That he wanted to be a writer as a teenager, writing secretly to escape the displeasure of his mother-in-law.
In her husband’s old notebook, she writes short stories and familiar topics for women seeking revenge or tricks to keep doing what they want. This brief, anecdotal moment almost illustrates the level of abuse she endured. As well as the constant negotiations she goes through to keep her urges from stifling.
At first glance, his life experience is different from that of his son-in-law:
Evidence, though brief, that the latter was a writer by profession. The house closed by the older woman seemed to be a place of accusation for Mrinallini. Here the movement is not restricted.
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The sound is not muffled. Their time together is a double metaphor for Mrinalini. Who critically examines the work of Mahadevi Verma. By waiting to unravel his many theories, arguing that dating is a woman’s position.
But the two heroes, separated from public duties, do not occupy separate realities. You can stand on both sides of time. But what stands between them is a dhumma or mist that only gives the impression of change.
In her haunting short film, Media tells the story of a generation.
Where women inherit oppression as part of the legacy and learn to adapt to age in their way. For Mrinalini, the face of abuse has become dangerous two generations later, but it still exists. It is the link that binds these women together.
By comparing and essentially deciphering two stories around the house, the media points out that the more things change, the more they stay the same. But it happens so clearly when the horrific exposure ultimately underscores the inevitable cycle of abuse and shows that forgetting, whether forced or not, is the only way out.
The film ends with Mrinallini almost as it begins. But this time, he wasn’t looking at the laptop but at himself in the mirror. The lens the film uses everywhere – the lens of a young woman gazing at the ideals of feminism – is written here, but distances are blurring. He recognized the hidden symbols of violence and saw himself in them.
The consequences of the scene where Dhumma begins is now clear.
Her husband’s innocent cries for help suddenly become brutal, and her struggles to write reviews are more personal than literary. The difficulty to objectify the previously independent subordination of women arises from her subjective acquaintance with them. It cannot be started because there is no end. He didn’t see her then. He saw it now that the fog had cleared.