"Papa Ko Pani Se Dar Lagta Hai" (My Father is Afraid of Water, 2023): The Ephemeral Beauty of Memories
Dipankar Sarkar provides a comprehensive analysis on the hindi short film, "Papa Ko Pani Se Dar Lagta Hai"
Papa Ko Pani Se Dar Lagta Hai is a Hindi short film by Prateek Rajendra Srivastava, that presents a vivid account of memory's gradual erosion. In the heart of familial duty, Prateek, an aspiring filmmaker, takes on the role of caretaker for his father, who grapples with the relentless grip of Alzheimer's. While his elder brother shoulders the weight of their hospitalized mother's care, he chooses to remain on home turf, facing the intricate challenges that come with tending to his father. As the challenging moments unfold, his reservoir of patience and unwavering determination encounters trials that put his caregiving skills to the ultimate test.
With a running time of around twenty-eight minutes, the film gracefully weaves through the vortex of remembrance mirroring the erratic maze that the father's mind navigates. A once-vibrant individual, now rendered fragile by the relentless erosion of recollections, embarks on a journey through the corridors of fading memories. The filmmaker fearlessly captures the obstinate father's defiance against medications, his protestations at the prospect of a shower, and even moments where he inadvertently soils himself or attempts an escape from the confines of home. This act of disagreement traverses into a symbolic odyssey as he aimlessly traverses the streets, trailed by his son. Amidst the meandering, when the father affectionately recalls the nickname of his son and addresses a child at a bus stop as Little (Prateek's nickname), echoes of days filled with familial bonding resound, casting a gentle light on a shared past.
As the story moves forward it unfolds like pages torn from a cherished book, each one revealing a layer of the protagonist's life that is crumbling away over time. It transports us into a world where time unravels, memories fade, and the very essence of identity slips through the fingers like grains of sand. It guides us through the corridors of the mind, where fragments of the past cling desperately to the edges of consciousness, like leaves refusing to be carried away by the winds of forgetfulness. The son, with a mixture of love and sorrow in his eyes, patiently introduces himself again and again to his father, a ritual that becomes both a heartbreaking necessity and an act of compassion.
Vikas Hooda's cinematography captures the beauty of fleeting moments, accentuating the fragility of a mind gradually losing its grip on reality. Complementing this visual, Sanal George's ambient sound design envelops the audience, creating a feeling as if the drama is unfolding within an organic world. Dr. Mohan Agashe, as the father, and Rahul Bagga, embodying the son, deliver performances imbued with perseverance and tenacity. Striking a bittersweet balance between persistence and bonding, their portrayals remain unalloyed on a canvas where emotion flows seamlessly, avoiding the pitfalls of overemphasis.
Papa Ko Pani Se Dar Lagta Hai crafts an ode to the resilience of the human spirit in the face of Alzheimer's cruel grasp. Srivastava dedicates this film to his father, and in the closing scene, his father makes a touching appearance. As his eyes pierce the abyss of long-forgotten memories, a faint yet resilient ember of endurance flickers to life within him.
Papa Ko Pani Se Dar Lagta Hai has been selected for the 22nd Dhaka International Film Festival.
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