Film Review: 251 (2023) - Unveiling the human spirit Amidst an adverse situation.

Dipankar Sarkar provides an insightful review of Bauddhayan Mukherji's "251 (2023)," a poignant short film depicting the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, skillfully blending sorrow, resilience, and poetic charm.

Feb 12, 2024 - 20:51
Feb 12, 2024 - 20:52
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Film Review: 251 (2023) - Unveiling the human spirit Amidst an adverse situation.

Based on true events, Bauddhayan Mukherji's short film 251 (2023) unfolds against the haunting backdrop of the initial onslaught of the COVID-19 pandemic—a period that etched a sombre phase onto the world's collective canvas. Clocking in at sixteen minutes, it delicately unfurls its storytelling, intricately weaving threads of sorrow and resilience, guiding us through the labyrinth of emotions and navigating corridors of longing. Each passing moment is laden with uncertainty, revealing itself like a mystery, inked with fear and compassion in equal measure. As the filmmaker recreates the grim reality imposed by the pandemic, the short film transforms into a visual symphony resonating with the universal chords of grief.

In the heart of an open field, where the sun scorches the earth and distress hangs heavy in the air, a son arrives at a makeshift crematorium to bid his final farewell to his departed mother. Little does he know that his journey to closure is entwined with an excruciating procedure. Clad in a stifling PPE kit, he stands in a long queue under the unforgiving heat. Strict guards, following explicit orders, deny him even a sip of water, amplifying the harshness of the moment. As he waits in the purgatory of queue numbers, an unfortunate old man, gripped by the madness of losing his son, undergoes an emotional breakdown. The scorching heat becomes a relentless adversary, testing not only his physical endurance but also the resilience of his spirit, transforming into a metaphor for the universal pilgrimage through agony. Each step echoes not only the numerical progression but also the shared narratives of those who, like him, grapple with the misfortune of bidding the last adieu in a world reshaped by tragedy.

As the son waits for his token number to be announced, he retrieves a grocery list from his identity card, snugly tucked into his shirt's pocket. In this simple act, he acknowledges the void left by his deceased mother – a mournful reminder that henceforth, he will miss the lists scribbled by her caring hands.  In another heartfelt moment, a stranger, who has also tasted the bitter sting of loss, having lost his elder brother to the virus, extends a bottle of water to quench the son's thirst. In this collective silence, two grieving souls find solace in small gestures that transcend the boundaries of personal sorrow and woe. Ranjan Palit's cinematography is akin to a brushstroke, interlacing a gloomy canvas that ensnares the protagonist in moments of psychological turmoil unfolding in the vast expanse of an exterior location. Sanyukta Kaza's editing carefully integrates a stifling tempo to each scene, forging a rhythm that metamorphoses the story into a blend of pain, deprivation, and an ardent yearning for solace.  Kunal Sharma's sound design infuses vitality into the narrative, elevating it to a realm where every note becomes an integral heartbeat, casting a brooding atmosphere that accentuates the story's surreal essence. Anirban Bhattacharya illuminates the screen with nuanced performances, bringing to life the forging of a son's fortitude in the crucible of sorrow.

Even amidst its exploration of a dark concept, 251 exudes a poetic charm. Mukherji not only invites the audience to be spectators but encourages them to stand as witnesses to an unfolding incident, skillfully weaving a controlled exploration of emotional and socially relevant themes.

*****

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