Natkhat (short film)
Director: Shaan Vyas
Writers: Annukampa Harsh, Shaan Vyas
Cast: Vidya Balan, Sanika Patel
Streaming on: Voot Select
Patriarchy dictates people’s lives. This is true for most of India, rural or urban. While one can easily bash men for the oppression that they have forced on women for centuries, the change will happen only through dialogue and behavior. Society changes when each individual starts to change him/herself. It’s not the other way around. If we could wrap our brains around a simple, sensible thing that every human is a life; and discrimination based on gender, caste, race or class is a crime against humanity, will solve many of our problems. But that will take decades to happen.
For now, let me just write about Natkhat, a short film owing its complete impact to its writers (Annukampa Harsh, Shaan Vyas). Had the writing – messaging and storytelling – gone even a little right or left, no amount of good acting or any other technical brilliance would have created the impact that the film creates.
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Patriarchy is so deeply rooted in patriarchy that knowingly or unknowingly little boys grow up with the same sexist mentality as that of their fathers and grandfathers. And it’s the little things in daily life, the sexist remarks, supposed gender roles, and freedom of expression and questioning the norm that turn out to be the big factors in the overall development of a society or culture. Sonu, a little boy from small town India lives in a house ruled by men and patriarchy. The women in the house have to cover their heads and live a domesticated life. Even the mother-in-law who now has some power is not helpful towards her daughter-in-law either.
Without realizing its impact Sonu passes a sexist remark on a girl “ladki ko utha lo” which disturbs his mother (Vidya Balan) to the core. She can’t start campaigning like activists. The best thing that she can do is tell her son stories and as the story unfolds we come to know the unnerving reality of many Indian households. It’s difficult to even write about Natkhat. It leaves you speechless. I watched this film a few days ago on the screeners sent by the streaming service where the film can be watched from July 24th onwards. Took me a couple of days before I could articulate my thoughts. I still doubt whether I’ve managed to do so successfully. Natkhat is meant to be watched and learned from.