Desperate times don’t just call for drastic measures. Often, these can unlock doors of creativity. Covid-19 that tested our patience and resolve also brought out the best in many of us. And it is to this human instinct, the innate goodness in all of us that Unpaused, an anthology film, is dedicated to. Circling around the time when the world paused for there was no choice, here is an ode to humanity and to human spirit that invariably trumps whatever may be the odds.
With five (actually six for there is a duo too) directors coming together to present their individual takes on the testing Covid times, what we get are human and humane accounts by way of five short films. Directors are no wannabees but the best in the field.
Glitch by the masterly duo Raj and DK is a love story of sorts. From virtual dating to paranoia surrounding Covid to the silent warriors (pay attention, it’s no accident that the heroine Saiyami Kher is hearing and speech impaired) fighting the disease, the account is both mirthful and insightful. And it has a surreal futuristic feel to it, taking us back to the lockdown phase as well as post it in an exaggerated-dramatic fashion where hypo stands for hyper hypochondriacs.
In fact, most stories take off as much from the reality that surrounds us, as from the flight of imagination. Be it the migrant’s family finding refuge in a sample flat (Vishaanu by Avinash Arun) or the neighbours connecting despite the age gap (Rat-A-Tat by Tannishtha Chatterjee) or the bond that develops between an auto-rickshaw driver and a matronly senior citizen (Chaand Mubarak by Nitya Mehra), there is a utopian touch to the stories. Even Nikkhil Advani’s Apartment which could well be an offshoot of a noted journalist’s me too tale very much out in public domain, has the wishful thinking tenor by way of this good Samaritan.
If you like to pick bones, well, certainly the short films are not unduly complex or highbrow. Nor are these trying too hard to unravel the complexity of the situation that had us in throes of anxiety. Undeniably, Covid-19 brought in its wake many a tragic story. But by design and intent Unpaused does not dwell over the negatives. Warm and fuzzy, these appeal to the heart more than the brain. Though you may like to read meaning in the references to clanking of vessels and Glitch employs subversive humour, Unpaused is not intrinsically political. Yet each story makes a statement.
In the tales of lockdown and coronavirus driving many of us on the brink of hypochondria, directors not only find humanism but also feminism, religious harmony and above all the inherent human need to bond. Sure the arcs, especially the climaxes are predictable. Besides, all stories are based in Mumbai. But then isn’t the maximum city emblematic of India and its diversity. As the migrant woman character in Vishaanu says, “Mumbai is good. The city which gives livelihood is good.”
The triumph of all the five stories is that these stay with the trajectory of the storyline each individual director has chosen. There is no mishmash of thoughts, only an overriding connecting thread as each story is a stand-alone short film. The lead characters are flesh and blood with beating hearts. It helps immensely that actors at hand are superlative. Be it the seasoned ones like Ratna Pathak Shah (Chaand Mubarak) and Lillete Dubey (Rat-A-Tat) or newer faces like Ishwak Singh (Apartment) and Shardul Bhardwaj (Chaand Mubarak) or established names such as Richa Chadha, Gulshan Deviah, Sumeet Vyas or rising ones like Abhishek Banerjee, each actor puts his/her best foot forward. In the process we can feel them, feel their emotions and turn a tad more emotional ourselves.
More than one story touches our heart, but the most moving is Chaand Mubarak where bit by bit you warm up to the two lonely people connecting en route a ride despite religious and social divide. To be honest you connect to all these men and women, who bring to life an adverse situation and let only humanity shine like a beacon. That’s precisely why Unpaused offers wondrous joy and is a ray of sunshine in these dark and dismal times. You can certainly pause and pay heed to the breezy anthology that makes more than a point, often in an uncomplicated yet subtle manner. Direct to the heart is this OTT offering streaming on Amazon Prime.