Review: 'Unpaused: Naya Safar' is Unafraid to Recount Pandemic's Toll on Humans
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Unpaused: Naya Safar
Review: 'Unpaused: Naya Safar' is Unafraid to Recount The Pandemic's Effect on Humans
Unpaused is an anthology of five stories set against the pandemic, and talks about how our lives have been upended by it. While in a way it thematically continues the legacy of the first anthology that released in December 2020, Unpaused: Naya Safar has matured in its vision and seems less afraid to show us the crippling toll the global pandemic and series of lockdowns have taken on humans. There is a sense of urgency, of time running out and the resultant helplessness that binds all the stories together.
The virus might have forced us to press the pause button and things might have come to a grinding halt, but there is just too much at stake here that doesn’t allow us the luxury to slow down and reflect. The need to act, and act fast, is crucial.
One of the most powerful, hard-hitting films is the fifth in the anthology, Vaikunth, which is also the most triggering for those of us who have experienced first-hand the horrors of the second wave. It opens in a crematorium with pyres burning, and the curtain of smoke is wrapped in muffled sobs and an aching sense of loss. This is where Vikas Chavan works. Nagraj Manjule, who has directed the short, also plays the protagonist. Vikas’ work never stops, be it during curfews or lockdowns. As the virus rages, bodies keep lining up at the crematorium. Some bodies don’t have any family members accompanying them, some will have a reluctant relative forced to stand at a safe distance while Vikas lights the pyre. When he isn’t taking care of the dead, he must worry for the living, his young son and ailing father. The little boy who registers the apocalyptic scenes is told to not be scared even as Vikas steals a few moments to find out about his own ailing father. Distant relatives dodge his requests of help, neighbours want him to vacate his tiny house - we witness humanity die, and just when it all seems too much to bear Manjule and co-writer Sudhir Kulkarni offer us some hope. Vaikunth is profoundly heartbreaking, and yet manages to give us something to hold on to.
The second in the anthology, Ayala KM’s War Room, has an interesting premise masterfully steered by Geetanjali Kulkarni’s riveting performance. The setting is of a COVID war room, with phone lines constantly buzzing as we hear desperation and helplessness in the tone of callers trying to look for a hospital bed or oxygen. Announcements about the number of free beds and which hospitals have oxygen drone on as the entire room tries to manage a situation spiralling out of control. Sangeetha Waghmare (Geetanjali) is one of the many government school teachers on COVID duty, when she gets a request for help from someone she wished death upon. The details remain scarce and bleed out slowly, but her tussle between unforgiving rage and call-of-duty makes for a striking film.
The first film is Nupur Asthana‘s The Couple. It benefits greatly from Shreya Dhanwanthary and Priyanshu Painyuli’s easy chemistry, and Asthana and Samina Motlekar’s writing . A young couple are pushed to the brink when one of them is fired from their job. The uncertainty of what the future holds makes them question the foundation of their own marriage.
Ruchir Arun’s Teeb Tigada, about three small-time thieves stuck in an abandoned factory during the lockdown, talks of shared grief and brotherhood in a smartly crafted, unhurried fashion. Ashish Verma, Saqib Saleem and Sam Mohan draw us in with their uninhibited performances.
The weakest of the lot is perhaps is Shikha Makan’s Gond Ke Laddu. It’s the story of a mother (Neena Kulkarni) who couriers homemade laddus to her daughter. As the film talks about misfortunes and chance goodwill that also involves the very pleasant Darshana Rajendran and Lakshita Singh Saran, the writing wobbles and the simple story becomes too simplistic and predictable to hold us like the rest of the films do.
Our Rating: 4 Quints out of 5
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