Saturday, June 1, 2019


Release date:
May 31, 2019
Praveen Fernandes, Hanish Kalia, Heena Dsouza, Sanjiv Kishinchandani, Avalokita, Gaurav Mehra

Neena Gupta, Chunky Panday, Amit Sial, Lalit Behl, Pramod Pathak, Shahriyar Atai, Kamil Shaikh, Delnaaz Irani, Merenla Imsong, Veera Fauzia Saxena, Anurita Jha, Saurabh Goyal, Mohit Chauhan, Preeti Hansraj Sharma

Shuruaat Ka Twist (The Twist at the Start) is an anthology of six short films, its distinctive feature being that the directors are all debutants who have been mentored by Bollywood stalwarts. This of course makes it stand apart from other compilations by the industry such as Bombay Talkies and Lust Stories, which have drawn attention for getting top-ranking, blockbuster-making feature directors like Karan Johar and Zoya Akhtar to dabble in this experimental space.

Shuruaat Ka Twist’s mentor list is a roll call of some of Bollywood’s top shots though: Raj Kumar Gupta (No One Killed Jessica, Raid), Vikramaditya Motwane (Udaan, Lootera), Rajkumar Hirani (the Munnabhai series, 3 Idiots) and Amit V. Masurkar (Newton).

The anthology begins with a very short short titled Tap Tap by Praveen Fernandes starring Chunky Panday as an out-of-work musician desperately in search of inspiration and finding it in an unexpected place. Tap Tap is faithful to the overall theme spelt out in the title, delivering an unexpected twist in the end. This is clever, concise, sharp and consequently fun fare. It also builds a solid case for producers to cast the underrated Panday in more roles and to back Fernandes for a full-length film.

Next comes Khauff by Hanish Kalia, which stars Amit Sial as a man seeking medical help for an inexplicable phobia: he stays awake every night fearing that he will die. Pramod Pathak plays his therapist. This mini movie falls in the psychological thriller genre, and at its mid-point is just the sort of film about which those of us who consider ourselves “serious film buffs” tend to get cocky and start prematurely crying, “predictable!” Be patient, oh thou cynic: it is not.  Far from it.

Sial has been a consistent performer in Bollywood but has not so far been rewarded with the screen space he deserves. Here in Khauff he does well as an enigmatic, apparently tormented soul. And Kalia’s direction offers an apt lesson to his seniors who have, in the past decade, assumed that the route to frightening an audience is a high-decibel background score, grating sound effects and sudden camera movements. Khauff is genuinely scary and its sound design by Shajith Koyeri and Savitha Nambrath is superlative. Like Tap Tap, it is smart, small and entertaining.

From here on though, Shuruaat Ka Twist becomes uneven.

Adi Sonal by Heena Dsouza has a warm moment of female bonding in the end, of the sort that we do not see often enough in mainstream Hindi cinema, which prefers to dip into social stereotypes like the evil saas harassing her bahu and the evil bahu torturing her old saas-sasur. That scene brought to mind another rare Hindi film older-woman-younger-woman equation from a few years back: a mother-in-law (Tanvi Azmi) offering a listening ear to a daughter-in-law (Priyanka Chopra) whose heart has been broken by her unfaithful husband. Read: Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Bajirao Mastani.

Neena Gupta in Adi Sonal is the matriarch of a joint family in which the male head (Lalit Behl) does nothing all day but demand to be served, and the pressure of work leads to some tension among the women who, despite that, share an underlying unspoken understanding between them. Dsouza is effective in capturing the drudgery of their existence, the patriarchal nature of traditional marriages and joint families, and the terror that domestic violence brings.

That said, Adi Sonal feels stretched, especially coming as it does right after the clipped pace of Tap Tap and Khauff, and the writing of the other two women characters is not as comprehensive as it is with Gupta’s character and her suffering younger female relative. Its flaws notwithstanding, the uncommon empathy for women made me curious to see what Dsouza might do next.

Bhaskar Calling by Sanjiv Kishinchandani is a complete departure from the tone of the remaining five shorts. This one does not have any pretensions to great intellectual depth, in fact it pointedly – and thankfully – refuses to be a profound comment on the loneliness and helplessness of the elderly.

Shahriyar Atai is a hoot as an ageing Parsi gentleman home alone when he receives a visit from a housing loan officer (Kamil Shaikh) while his daughter (Delnaaz Irani) is away at work. To be honest, halfway through I kinda sorta figured what the old chap was up to, but whatever! I had a good laugh watching Bhaskar Calling.

Guththi (The Knot) by Avalokita is the film that most resembles in tone a work by the director’s mentor. Amit V. Masurkar’s calling card today is Newton, but before he made that film, there was a lovely, conversation-heavy, hilarious cum ruminative but unfortunately under-noticed gem called Sulemani Keeda. At first the conversations between the two flatmates played by Merenla Imsong and Veera Fauzia Saxena are nice because of how real they feel. Guththi brings home the extreme closeness that can develop between two very different individuals in a sprawling metropolis, their lives far removed from a conventional family situation. It is also a melancholic reminder of how much we are compelled to give up when we make choices we are keen on.

Despite its promising subjects, Guththi sags after a while. Still, Avalokita is another talent worth exploring further.

Aside: Misspellings in film credits are infuriating. The director’s name appears twice, first immediately after Guththi and then in the rolling credits right at the end of the anthology. So is it Avalokita or Avlokita?

The closing film in Shuruaat Ka Twist is the most self-indulgent of the lot and irritatingly gimmicky. Gaurav Mehra’s Guddu features Anurita Jha as a youngster trying to escape a marriage her father is forcing her into. The climax is a call for open-mindedness towards every kind of love in this world, but by treating a sensitive issue as a mere tool to draw a gasp from the audience rather than exploring it with any degree of understanding, Mehra ends up trivialising it.

Guddu is also the most technically iffy short in this half dozen. The continuity issues in a scene in which the leads, Guddu and Nishant (Saurabh Goyal), sit chatting in a vehicle should have been reason enough to chop this one out of the set. The car door on the passenger side is, in successive shots, shown open, closed, open and closed. It boggles the mind that such inefficiency passed muster in a film with so many leading lights attached to it.

Guddu’s ineptitude pulls down the entire anthology, coming as it does right at the end. Tap Tap and Khauff’s polish, the poignance of Adi Sonal and the merriment in Bhaskar Calling merited a better companion than this one. Still, as such film collections go, four out of six is pretty impressive.

Rating (out of five stars): **1/2

CBFC Rating (India):
Running time:
142 minutes 

This review has also been published on Firstpost:

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