Mum (2023): The essence of everyday struggles
In this analysis, Dipankar Sarkar provides insight into the short documentary Mum directed by Siddhant Sarin.
Mum is a documentary that follows the quotidian realities of the protagonist, Sandra, and presents a realistic view of motherhood and the challenges that come with it. She is a mother of two who is raising her children and living in a small apartment with her husband, who does not shoulder the responsibilities as much as her wife does. It is a tiring routine task and Sandra remains resilient and determined to provide a loving and nurturing environment for her children and husband. She does not pamper the misbehaviour of her children and holds them accountable for their actions. She believes in setting boundaries and teaching them the importance of responsibility. Sandra also understands the importance of leading by example and strives to be a role model for her children. She actively engages in open communication with them, encouraging them to express their thoughts and emotions.
Image: Film still
The documentary creates a sense of nostalgia and reminds us of the love and care a mother provides. It transports us into the regime of a family and evokes memories of a mother's warm, protective embrace and reminds us of the importance of cherishing our own mothers and the precious moments we had shared with them as children. It is filled with soothing moments, laughter and joy that fill our hearts with warmth and gratitude. Through an unsentimental recording of the essence of a mother's unconditional love, highlighting the sacrifices she makes for her family, the documentary portrays the daily struggles and triumphs of a woman who demonstrates emotional tenacity and sturdiness.
Siddhant captures the raw emotions of his subjects with an alacrity. As Sandra combs the hair of his son she uses spit and that creates a moment of hilarity and endearing intimacy. In another instance, Sandra and her husband dedicatedly listen to a calm motivational speech on their cell phones, which also ends up in a moment of uncontrollable laughter. The narrative is given richness and sincerity by these unanticipated and unpredictable moments. It reminds viewers that even in the most mundane moments, there is a potential for connection and provides a subtle glimpse into the human experience. These moments also highlight the beauty of embracing and finding joy in the simple things. It serves as a reminder of the potential for genuine connection and understanding in even the unlikeliest situations, bringing a sense of warmth and relatability to the viewing experience.
Image: film still
The strength of the documentary lies in the casual familiarity with which the scenes are shot and edited by Siddhant himself, which attracts our involvement with the subject matter. In one of the scenes, Sandra and her husband are framed sitting in two different rooms separated by a wall, which evokes a sense of distance and isolation. In the final shot of the documentary, Sandra is seen dancing to the music of a foot-tapping number. But as we cut to a long shot, it is revealed that her happiness seems to be within the boundaries of the shop where she works and glass walls, highlighting the contrast between her inner world and the external reality.
Within a span of nineteen minutes, Siddhant has accomplished an unpretentious documentary about ordinary people that achieves a fine balance between emotion and critical observations. At the 15th International Documentary and Short Film Festival, held in Trivandrum in 2023, Mum won the Second Best Short Documentary Award.