Film Review: Pradip Kurbah’s Path (2021): An illuminating exposition of agony.

"It’s a personal story about a man's solitary journey during one of the most catastrophic phases of this decade", writes Dipankar Sarkar

Jan 9, 2023 - 15:01
Jan 9, 2023 - 15:02
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Film Review:  Pradip Kurbah’s Path (2021): An illuminating exposition of agony.
Image: Poster of the film Path

Dipankar Sarkar, an Indian film critic and an alumnous of FTII, writes on Pradip Kurbah's short film, " Path"

The recent outing from Pradip Kurbah, Path, a twenty-minute short film, is a touching and plaintive drama that has been expertly filmed with unfailing empathy. With a keen and precise narrative design, the films convey the tenacious spirit of a middle-aged man under harsh circumstances with sensitivity, minimalism, and control. It’s a personal story about a man's solitary journey during one of the most catastrophic phases of this decade.

The pandemic has cast its evil shadow over the earth. A man waits for a vehicle to help him reach his destination on a desolate roadside. His only possession is a trunk wrapped in a small piece of cloth. As he sits hunched in one corner of the road, a minitruck appears with passengers in the back of the vehicle. They help to make room for the man and his trunk. Moments later, hoisting his trunk over his head, the man crosses the border from Bangladesh into India. On entering his village, he had to surreptitiously make his way to his hut made of bamboo. He puts the trunk on the floor and opens it to reveal a secret whose burden he has been carrying for so long.

There is no dialogue track in the film. We learn about the time period of the movie through an off-screen announcement made by Narendra Modi, who requests that his fellow citizens show their appreciation for the frontline workers during the Janta Curfew Taali-Thali Bajao plea. The film is distinguished not only by its lack of dialogue but also by the presence of ambient sound, which prevents it from being truly silent. The absence of a conversation or monologue acts as a sensitive investigation into the suffering of a defenceless person from the lower strata of society, whose voices are rarely heard. After all, words cannot express what actions, emotions, and desperate instincts do. Kurbah, who once again worked on the writing with Paulami Duttagupta, skilfully handles each elegiac scene with subtlety and brings to the forefront a bitter component of modern reality. 

Through smooth and swift movements, the cinematography by Pradip Daimary provides an intimate insight into the quandary of an individual. The editing by Lionel Fernandes maintains a seamless and rhythmic flow of the scenes. Sumir Dewri and Hengul Medhi’s sound design has a strong sound structure that is woven and enmeshed into the fabric of the film. The protagonist, Albert Mawrie, delivers a lived-in performance that captures the full arc of an unsettled man coming to terms with his grief.

Due to COVID-19-related restrictions, countries across the world were forced to accept new rules and regulations. Most of the have-nots of our nation lost their source of income and were forced to walk for several hours to reach a dependable refuge, which was a monumental task. People who were most impacted slid between the cracks, and this short film is a telling reminder of the plight of such individuals. At the 14th International Short Film Festival of Kerala (IDSFFK), 2022, the film was a meritorious winner of the award for the second-best film in the short fiction category.

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