Film Review: Te Ke Lau Lodna (What Are You Searching?, 2022): An understated and nuanced tale of bereavement and existence
Dipankar Sarkar writes, " Te Ke Lau Lodna" subtly explores mourning, self-exploration through difficult times, and, to a greater extent, the unpredictability of life itself. "
Dipankar Sarkar, an Indian film critic and alumnus of FTII, Pune, offers a critical analysis of Princy Pal's short film "Te Ke Lau Lodna"
Te Ke Lau Lodna is a short film by Princy Pal made in Kului as her diploma at SRFTI, Kolkata. The half an hour long film emphasises the philosophy that emotions play an integral role in our development as humans. The dilemma between the emotions of loss and acceptance of reality forms the dramatic progression of the film. The film excels in highlighting, with sensitivity and sincerity, the agony of the woman caught in the vortex of a psychological whirlpool, following the demise of her husband.
The story of the film is set in a small village in Himachal Pradesh, and the protagonist is a young woman named Jyotsana (Indira Tiwari), who lost her husband during the crucial moment of giving birth to her child. The loss has left such a scar in her life that she is finding it difficult to cope with it. As she, in her imagination, keeps looking for the presence of her husband in the valley, her assumptions are met with bitter reality. In this process of clinging to the bitter memories of the past and discarding the actuality of the present, her infant suffers from maternal attachment.
Image: film still
Princy uses the ebb and flow of the natural terrain to punctuate her film in this lyrical tale of pain, loss, and self-rediscovery. Wind ripples through vividly lush grass, trees, and bushes, and mist moves over certain hills. As a result, the village's elevated area assumes symbolic significance as the location for the process of mourning. The mountains also allow the filmmaker to give the story an elegiac and cathartic quality. The character of the young girl Shabu (Shabnam Thakkur) stands stark in comparison to Jyotsana, who is an innocent child yet to confront the vagaries of life while the other has to fight a battle with her memories. The colour red is associated metaphorically with the absence of her husband by representing shots of the cloth with spots of blood, the unspooling of the wool yarn down the slope, and the aimless flight of the umbrella downhill. By employing these strategies in the narrative, it enables the audience to concentrate on the central issue of sadness and how to overcome it, as experienced by the protagonist.
Roopesh Shaji's eye for exquisiteness presents a number of beautiful images in both the interior and the forest, with the green of the waving grass and of the trees enriching the images. The attention to realism and naturalism in the depiction is a crucial aspect of the cinematography. The sound design by Satish Chandra Tiriya makes aural space so tangible. It is as if we can hear the wind, feel the texture of the bark on the trees with our fingers, smell the disturbed earth, and hear the pouring of the rain. Indira Tiwari brings restraint to her character and effectively communicates her feelings with her eyes and body stance. Shabnam Thakkur's effortless and spontaneous portrayal brings a naive charm to her character.
Te Ke Lau Lodna subtly explores mourning, self-exploration through difficult times, and, to a greater extent, the unpredictability of life itself. An elderly woman tells Jyotsana, "You can’t find what is lost; it goes far," to keep her from falling apart. As it rains towards the end, we expect that it washes away the misery of Jyotsana’s life so that she finds happiness and closure in a space that perhaps doesn’t exist physically but spiritually.
Te Ke Lau Lodna was selected for the Indian Film Festival of Melbourne, 2023. It has been nominated for the Best Short Film Award at the Student World Impact Film Festival 2023 and the 6th South Asian Short Film Festival, Kolkata.
Image: film still