Film Review: Since Forever (2023): The undbeaten spirit of a woman
Festival Focus: SIGNS, Kerala, 2023
Dipankar Sarkar, a noted Indian film critic and an alumnus of FTII, Pune takes a critical look at Nisam Asaf’s a fifteen-minute short film Since Forever .
Since Forever, a fifteen-minute short film by Nisam Asaf, tells the story of a young woman in trouble who becomes caught up in a predicament she can't easily get out of. This candid drama is grounded in sincerity as it tells the struggle of a young lady to have an abortion. Avoiding overt dramatic elements and social discourse prevents the film from becoming preachy and emotional. The film expertly does this without passing judgment and derives its strength from a simplistic narrative. By adopting a careful observation style, it immerses the viewers in the protagonist's experience as she exhausts all options to end her unwelcome pregnancy.
The story of the film takes place in rural Kerala after the rules have been relaxed following the statewide COVID-19 lockdown. Anu (Paski) works in a small factory that manufactures mineral water. Due to abuse, she has become pregnant and wants to get rid of the unborn child. Her colleague Sita (Priya Srijith) comes to her rescue and suggests taking her to a gynecologist. But after a sonography, the doctor informs them that the fetus in Anu’s womb is outgrown, so it is difficult for her to carry out an abortion due to legal hurdles. Now, Anu is forced to use unsafe measures to end the unwelcome pregnancy.
Image: Nisam Asaf
Nisam's minimalist style is immediately obvious in the first scene, as we first hear the noises of machines, which are meant to symbolize the protagonist's inner anguish before she is even revealed to us. In her first glimpse, Anu is wearing a mask, which further indicates that she is hiding a bitter reality from society. The world of the film is inhabited by three women and one man, and that helps the film tighten its narrative structure without any flab. When the scenes take place between the women, there is a sort of camaraderie as well as solidarity available. But the presence of a seemingly helpful man (Sam Mohan) with doubtful intentions in one of the scenes generates a kind of suspense and makes a comment on how the presence of men in Anu’s life gives rise to tension and trouble. The conversation of the man with Anu and Sati taking place inside the vehicle also emphasizes how difficult the journey of Anu’s life has been. In the final scene of the film, we find her sitting alone in a moving bus, popping the tablet. It does not matter to us if she is able to abort the fetus or not because by now we have become aware of the fact that she has gathered enough courage to fight her way through life. Paski's portrayal of Anu embodies the character's emotional urgency with the deepest honesty. As the kind yet materialistic man, Sam Mohan gives his character a beguiling allure.
Since Forever seems to be heavily inspired by abortion dramas like 4 months, 3 weeks, and 2 days (2007) and Never, Rarely, Sometimes, Always (2020). But that does not take away the credit of this genuinely felt subtle drama in the short film. Setting the narrative of the film in a contemporary Malayalam society requires a vision. After all, the great French auteur, Jean-Luc Godard, has quoted, "It's not where you take things from—it's where you take them to."
The film has won the Best Short Feature Award (Malayalam) at the 16th SIGNS FESTIVAL 2023.