15th IDSFFK: Kaankhowa (2022)-Myth, reality and resilience.
Dipankar Sarkar, a distinguished Indian film critic and an alumnus of the esteemed Film and Television Institute of India in Pune, provides a comprehensive analysis of the short film entitled "Kaankhowa" made by the talented filmmaker Hira Das.
Hira Das’ short film Kaankhowa is a morally conflicting and restrained account about hierarchies and social injustices. As the story unfolds, the film captures the intricate details of a stagnant society, immersing viewers in its oppressive atmosphere. Through deliberate pacing and attention to nuances, it aims to portray the weight of tradition and the consequences of fighting for one's self-worth.
Ram, an 11-year-old, while playing kabaddi in his school, discovers, to his dismay, that his shirt had been torn in the midst of all the excitement. His mother, Malati, a widow, asks for a loan from her employer to buy a new shirt. But gets into a fight with her. The tension between them creates even more animosity and worsens the situation for the mother and son. For her upright behavior, the village elders gave her an ultimatum to save herself and her son from being social outcasts. At the same time, their ailing cow dies. As Malati struggles to find a solution, her son watches helplessly, fearing the consequences. With the pressure mounting, she must find a way to bury the herbivore before it's too late.
Interfering in situations of oppression and injustice is essential to breaking the cycle of victimization. By speaking out against the tormentor and standing up for the tormented, we can actively contribute to creating a more just and equitable society. It is through our actions that we can dismantle systems of oppression and bring about positive change for those who have been silenced for far too long. But Das is uninterested in spreading such a social reform message. Instead, she focuses on the complexities of human relationships, the characters' inner struggles and delves deep into their emotional journeys, offering a thought-provoking and introspective narrative that aims to let the viewers form their perspective on the situation. Her command of screen space is evident in the way he creates shots of closure in which characters are depicted as being trapped by society's rigid and inhuman structures and questions their complicity in perpetuating these injustices.
The use of symbolism further enhances the minimalistic approach to infusing emotions into the tale, highlighting the suffocating nature of societal norms. The film begins with a game of Kabaddi, where Ram, as the raider, is tackled by the defenders from the opposing team. As Ram is pinned down by the defenders, his determination and resilience shine through, reflecting the challenges he will face in his journey. The intense struggle on the field foreshadows the hardships he will encounter and sets the stage for the rest of the film. This decay of social order can be seen in the critical condition of the cow, as it symbolizes the disregard for the well-being of those who are less privileged. The ailing cow's demise serves as a poignant reminder of the consequences that arise when power and wealth are concentrated in the hands of a few, leading to an erosion of compassion and fairness within society. At the same time, the film's title reflects how folklore reflects the struggles and challenges faced by societies throughout history.
Kaankhowa has been selected in the competition section of short films at the 15th International Documentary and Short Film Film Festival of Kerala, 2023.