The film was made for the India Film Project 50-hour-challenge.

Archana sits in a dim lit room wearing a lose t shirt and looking at her phone, with her hair let lose
Flix Short film Saturday, October 31, 2020 - 19:24
Written by  Cris

In all of the six minutes that the film unfolds, there is not a single dialogue. That’s not the novel part. It is that you as a viewer hardly notice this silence. There is every chance that you are either like the man in the film or know someone like him, glued to a smartphone that he cannot keep away for a bath or even to have a sip of tea. Atmanirbhar, a Malayalam short made for the India Film Project (IFP) 50-hour-challenge, can be a piece of your everyday life, relatable on different levels.

Archana Vasudev, who is behind the concept and script, has also played one of the two characters in the film. The other main character is played by filmmaker Lijin Jose, who produced and directed the film. The woman of the house opens the gate for the phone-obsessed man driving his car in, and watches him as he keeps going back to the gadget at every new beep it makes. Her face is at times readable, an obvious frustration passing through it, and at other times distant, watching the man in action like it’s a show played out for her. The surprise ending is however what made it so popular among the many who began sharing the film.

“Many asked me if it was about the victory of the woman. We didn’t quite intend that. It simply meant that everyone has a life of their own. They are not as naïve as they seem to be, and they have things happening on the side,” Archana says.

Lijin and Archana in a shot from the film

It wasn’t a mere gimmick when the woman in the film plays an episode of the British sitcom Fleabag on her phone as she gets on with housework. She isn’t entirely off the world of smartphones or technology either. When nothing else makes him take his eyes away from his phone or laptop, a message from her does. It is only then, in that final shot, that his gaze falls on her, when – it seems to you – that he finally sees her. The same moment when her gaze is no longer on him.  The cheeky title 'Atmanirbhar', a word that means self-reliance and was made popular by Prime Minister Narendra Modi during the coronavirus pandemic, takes on a whole other meaning through the ending.

“The theme of the IFP was Brave New World and we had to do everything from scratch in the 50 hours of receiving the theme. We decided to do away with dialogues, there was no time to go to a studio. I wrote a script in an hour. Lijin liked it. We began shooting the next morning at 6. We had already asked a few people to be ready to do the cinematography, editing, and music, all in these 50 hours,” Archana says.

They were in different places and the pandemic didn’t allow them to come together in one place . The shooting happened in Kochi (cinematography by Joe Christo Xavier), the editing (by Ajmal EA) was done on the night the film was shot, and the music (Ajay Jose) got added from Alappuzha.

Archana, who has done her PhD in cinema, had written another script for Lijin, but they had to push plans because of pandemic restrictions. Archana also runs a startup called Talkative and teaches mass communication.

Watch the film:

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