Naam (Identity, 2023): The transformative power of empathy and shared humanity

Dipankar Sarkar provides a comprehensive analysis on the Short Film "Naam (Identity 2023)"

Dec 26, 2023 - 19:43
Dec 26, 2023 - 19:43
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Naam (Identity, 2023): The transformative power of empathy and shared humanity

The act of singling out individuals based on their religious beliefs stands out as a pressing issue in our diverse nation, celebrated for its rich cultural tapestry and the coexistence of numerous religions over centuries. In response to these challenges, Sooraj Gunjal's short film, Naam, takes a subtle yet impactful approach to challenge the prevailing mindsets in our society. Gunjal aims to confront the stereotypes and misconceptions surrounding religious minorities. It catalyzes fostering a more inclusive and harmonious society by encouraging dialogue and dismantling preconceived notions that hinder social cohesion.

In the labyrinthine alleys of Mumbai, a young Muslim woman battles the odds in search of a maid's job. Her humble abode in a slum shelters not just her dreams but also a 5-year-old son, while the echoes of her absconded husband linger. A twist of fate arrives in the form of a benevolent security guard who devises a stratagem to secure her a job in a Hindu household, masquerading under the fake name ‘Pooja’. The house belongs to Jaya and Manish, a young couple on the cusp of parenthood. Both of them are content with Pooja's domestic contributions. Jaya, six months into an unexpected pregnancy, grapples with the complexities of impending motherhood. As the sands of time trickle down, a connection blossoms between both women, evolving into a bond laying the foundation for a gripping tale of mistrust. But one day as Pooja brings her child along with her to the house, the seeds of doubt get sown due to an unfortunate incident.

The revelation of the protagonist's name remains a mystery throughout the entire film, only unveiling itself in the final shot. The deliberate choice to withhold this information by the writer, Prem Singh, keeps the audience intrigued as they navigate the narrative. It further serves to heighten the impact of the revelation, allowing one to form connections with the character based on their actions and concerns rather than a predetermined perception associated with a name. Also, the key to the house assumes a dual role in the narrative, not merely as an instrument for unlocking doors but also as a symbolic medium of trust between the haves and have-nots. It illustrates how a lifeless piece of metal can become a conduit for fostering connections between individuals from disparate backgrounds. It emphasizes the idea that true connections can be formed when we look beyond superficial differences and find common ground in our shared humanity.

Furthermore, by depicting two women from different social strata, the filmmaker underscores that prejudices are not exclusive to individuals from the uneducated class. The narrative unfolds to reveal that biases permeate various echelons of society, irrespective of educational background. The performances by the two leading actors, Anjali Patil and Palomi Ghosh, allow the film to elevate itself from being a mere narrative and evolve into a thought-provoking exploration of human perceptions and societal dynamics.

Naam was selected for the National Competition of Short and Documentary Films at the 29th Kolkata International Film Festival, 2023.

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