Birha: The Journey Back Home
Dipankar Sarkar provides a comprehensive critique of the Punjabi short film titled "Birha: The Journey Back Home."
Birha: The Journey Back Home is a Punjabi short film that narrates the emotional journey of a young man reconnecting with his roots and seeking solace in forgiveness. The story focuses on the healing power of love and the reconciliation of a family that is torn apart by the selfish ambitions of one of its members. It emphasizes the plight of a family that is decimated by the allure of the West, a problem that is typical in the land of five rivers. The story captures the struggle between tradition and modernity as the protagonist wrestles with the consequences of his choices. Without overdramatizing, the filmmaker sheds light on the universal theme of sacrificing familial bonds for personal aspirations, leaving viewers reflecting on the complexities of human desires and their impact on loved ones.
The story of the film begins at dusk as the protagonist, Inder (Manav Vij), returns to his ancestral home that he had left behind years ago to fulfill his aspiration. Little did he know that this decision would change his life forever in ways he could never have imagined. Through flashback, it is revealed that he was the sole child of a Sikh couple who lived in a Punjabi village. Inder had an amicable relationship with his father (Rajit Kapur) and the bond strengthened over a cup of special tea and biscuit, prepared by the young lad. But misfortune came knocking on their door when Inder became hell-bent to emigrate to Canada, a notion that was strongly rejected by his father. But Inder had devised a cunning plan, for which he had to regret the consequences.
Birha draws the viewer straight into its emotional understanding. Director Puneet Prakash and his writer, Hemant Singh, have constructed a sentimental story bristling with unease and one that looks head-on at conflict. The emotional tiff between the father and the son is right on the surface from the get-go. Ambition has its price in this absorbing drama. As the drama unfolds, the narrative delves into the complexities of human behaviour and the consequences of our decisions. At its core, the film is about the conflict between security and uprooting, between the illusory comforts of home and the perilous allure of living one's dream.
Throughout the film, intrigue is maintained as the audience is left guessing, just like the father, about the true intentions behind Inder's return. The calibrated performances and chemistry between Kapur and Vij further enhance the tension, making the scenes enigmatic and compelling. However, the fantasy element at the end of the film does not work much in favour of the film, but the performances of the actors save the film from falling into the gallows of mediocrity. The editing by Mukesh Thakur maintains a rhythm in the storytelling and keeps us involved in the redemptive world of the film. The cinematography by Pratik Deora frames the character's vulnerable moments with aptness and the landscape of rural Punjab in all its allure.
Birha is currently playing in JioCinema as a part of its short film festival and has won the best short film award at the New York Indian Film Festival, 2023.