Preet: A young womans’ struggle to grow up and find herself
Dipankar Sarkar, noted Indian film critic and an alumnus of FTII, Pune, writes on Jayesh Jaidkas’ short film, Preet.
In our present-day society, women are still being chained by the patriarchal mindset in such a way that they unwittingly become complicit in problems like male chauvinism, sexism, misogyny, and toxic masculinity. A typical Indian woman continues to believe that a man is necessary for her to live a life of integrity. Due to this, women are forced into repressive arranged marriages where they have little to no control. Jayesh Jaidkas’ short film, Preet, which was recently screened at the New York Indian Film Festival in 2023, is a comment against such beliefs and practices. This is a short film that acts as a proof of concept for Jaidkas’ feature film and showcases the challenge confronted by a young woman trying to forge her identity even at the risk of alienating her family and friends.
The titular character of the film is a victim of marital abuse, and so she has left her home in Amritsar, Punjab, and fled to New York, much to the indignation of her family. She has mustered the courage to take such a drastic step because her childhood friend Jugal has promised her a better future in the bustling city that never sleeps. Jugal earns three grand a month by driving a cab and stays in a house shared by other male roommates. As Preet tries to adjust herself to the new environment, bitter memories from her past keep revisiting her. Soon, she realises that the grass isn't always greener on the other side.
Image: film still
Due to its dramatic plot and avoidance of over-sentimentality, a pitfall that most films in this genre inevitably fall into, Preet is an engrossing short film from the beginning to the very end. The protagonist of the film represents the indifference that people have towards others, especially vulnerable and socially unacceptable women. Her body becomes an object of both desire and exploitation by her former husband. At the same time, as the days pass, there is a shift in Jugals’ tonality and mannerisms towards her. We understand that he is helping her because he has a selfish motivation. But Preet has strong agency over her body and emotions, and even under dire circumstances, she refuses to become a victim. Thus, the story triumphs in examining how readily an individuals’ will and hope can be corrupted into hatred and estrangement.
Jaidka, who has also edited the film, deftly intercuts shots from Preets’ past and present to symbolically present how her traumatic past has left an indelible scar on his present. Mete Gultikens’ camera frames the characters with a subjective approach that we are invited to identify, as if the camera is a point of view we share with the character. Manasvi Sharma as Preet succeeds in the role of a young woman attempting to mature, find herself, find love, and live morally in a world that is blatantly wrong.
Preet works because it isn't preachy and doesn't take itself too seriously. It's a delicate short film about domestic violence and the quest to discover one's identity.
Image: film still