Paanchika (Five Pebbles, 2021): An emotionally overwhelming tale
In this analysis, Dipankar Sarkar provides insights on the film titled "Paanchika," directed by Ankit Kothari.
Adapted from a short story by Vyankatesh Madgulkar, Paanchika, directed by Ankit Kothari, is a jovial short film depicting the bonding between two children, Miri and Suba, that highlights how innocent souls are capable of overcoming obstacles imposed by adults. Due to societal obligations and prejudices, the bonding between the two little girls encounters restrictions. But the unwavering nature of their naiveté allows them to triumph over adversity and prove that a spotless heart does not follow blinkered demarcation. Their friendship becomes a symbol of hope and unity in narrating a heartwarming tale, which reminds us that even in a community filled with marginalization and casteism, love and friendship can give us hope for a better future.
Image: film still
Subi is considered the daughter of the devil by Miri's mother, and so both children are not allowed to play together. Miri sets off to deliver lunch across a desert of salt pyramids to his father and Suba follows her friend silently. As Subi abides by the order of his mother, she does not speak to Miri, keeping her silence as well and trying to maintain a distance from her. As they navigate the harsh terrain, the shared experience of enduring the relentless heat begins to dissolve the animosity between them. The journey becomes a joyful experience, allowing them to break free from societal expectations and forge a deeper bond based on mutual respect and compassion.
Paanchika creates a mesmerizing world through its images, which helps in moving the narrative forward. The stunning vastness of the salt pyramids immerses the audience in the characters' journey. The visual storytelling captured by the cinematographer Kuldeep Mamania enhances the emotional depth of the film, allowing viewers to fully experience the transformative power of friendship and acceptance. The aural space of the film designed by Pritam Das with great clarity and precision, creates a beautifully modulated world which makes one live within the film, creating an immersive and unforgettable cinematic experience. The editing by Manan Bhat and Ankit Kothari creates a smooth and perfect flow that keeps the audience engaged and intrigued throughout the entire film.
The film also uses symbolism to express deeper themes and ideas, leaving a lasting impression on the effects of the caste system and prejudices prevalent in our society. The introduction of Suba as a dark shadow falling on the ground creates a visual representation of the oppressive nature of societal divisions. Similarly, Miri's father having his lunch under the protection of a cloth is a stark reminder of the constant need for shelter from the harsh realities of societal prejudice. The arid and scorching landscape of the Rann of Kutch serves as the backdrop for the film's poetic narrative and beautifully captures the essence of the pitiless and unforgiving environment. The singularity of the film resides in such small gestures and challenges the audience to confront their own conflicting emotions towards their biased thought process. The two young girls Aarti and Anjali Thakore allow for a raw and genuine portrayal of the characters. As they bring perspectives to their performances it heightens the notch of verisimilitude to the narrative.
Paanchika is a powerful commentary on social issues without being didactic or verbose and allows the audience to engage with the little girls and their struggles on a deeper level. At the 69th National Film Award, it has won the award for Best Short Film, for its exceptional storytelling and impactful portrayal of social issues.