Rarely do we come across films that manage to convey a lot by saying very little. 13-time international award-winning filmmaker Kabeer Khurana who, besides being the co-founder of India’s youngest publishing venture, Bombaykala Books, is also a final year student at Ashoka University, Sonepat, has got another piece of genius up his sleeve this month.
Co-written by Kabeer and writer and filmmaker, Kanishk Devgan, short film Suttabaazi, which recently released on YouTube and Disney+ Hotstar, takes an extraordinary approach to the story of a rather amusingly mundane little family caught in during the pandemic-induced nationwide lockdown. A teen Instagram influencer, Diya, who is also a clandestine chain smoker, a middle-aged dad who is trying hard to revive his business broken due to the lockdown whilst also forwarding WhatsApp chain messages and making all efforts towards impressing upon the world that COVID-19 is a conspiracy theory, a myth at best. Then there’s the mother, who is actually revealed to be the true shocker in the film.
Kabeer’s eye for nuance has long been known and this film is no different as he takes little moments like Diya’s father casually gaslighting her mother into giving up her little dreams and efforts at independence. About his nuance, Kabir says, “I believe that art emulates life. It comes from seeing people around you and how they respond – how families work. This is the story of a dysfunctional family having to live with each other’s idiosyncrasies. I wanted to capture this little moment”. Kabeer says that at the end of the day, the idea was to capture the perfect ‘Kurkure family’. “I wanted to make a whacky film about a ‘Kurkure family’ stuck with each other in the lockdown. ‘Kurkure family’, you know, the kind that is filled with everyone’s oddities – take a whacky Punjabi family and put them together during a lockdown and see them moving towards conflicts and resolution of conflict.”
As the word is around, this film, which was shot in less than two days during the lockdown, is also special as it marks the debut of acclaimed actor and Miss Universe 1994, Sushmita Sen’s daughter, Renee Sen, who is also Kabeer’s long time friend. Kabeer remarks, “Knowing Renee in a professional capacity was quite a different experience. She brought a vibrant energy to the set and to the role and that’s exactly what I was looking for in Diya.”
Renee adds, “I’m very happy to be a part of a film that is not only entertaining but also has an important message for the audience to take home.”
A central yet quite natural, even mildly understated (at least in the first few minutes) element of the film is the cigarette. Kabeer says that he does not endorse smoking or wants to take a moral stand on it. Says Kabeer, “The cigarette is just a plot device to tell the viewers that it’s just a slice of life and this is how people are. The dad smokes because of stress and towards the end, cigarettes are exchanged to denote the entering of two people, so far together yet as removed from the other as possible. It’s a small yet significant symbolic step towards understanding each other.”
Watch Suttabaazi here.
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