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Natkhat & Vidya Balan Will Shake You Up



Natkhat & Vidya Balan Will Shake You Up 12

Natkhat( A  Short  Film Produced  by  RSVP)

Starring Vidya Balan,  Sanika Patel

Directed by Shaan Vyas

Rating: *** ½

It’s not  so much about what men do  to women, as  what women  allow men to do  by  accepting the  tyranny of patriarchy  as the norm. Natkhat, a short film produced by Ronni Screwvala’s RSVP , deserves a deep and  attentive dekko just for being what it is: an unflinchingly  brutal  critique of the male gaze.

The setting is some kind of a mofussil North Indian backwater where the musk of masculinity can  be smelt all the way from the  children’s school to their parents’ bedroom. The main characters are a  little  alert vulnerable and  thoroughly corruptible little boy named Sonu(Sanika Patel) who hears  and sees the female gender being abused  everywhere. The  film opens  with Sonu swaggering and swearing  like  the louts  who hover around his school. It’s  a performance by  a  child who doesn’t know what he is  doing. Not yet.

The scenes  of little boys playing  rape-rape behind trees in lonely fields would have been gut-wrenching  were they not so innocent and denuded of  permanent damage.Pinning down their female  classmate the boys wonder what  they are supposed to do with her.

“I don’t know,” little Sonu shrugs  , as the manual  on How To  Subjugate Women is  not yet ready and ripe in his tender  mind.

Blessedly  Natkhat is not about the loss of innocence  but its redemption. Standing tall as Sonu’s mother is Vidya Balan a silent sufferer in a family of  boorish men who has no  function  in the family except to  roll out rotis as the men sit chomping and chewing on what to  do to  further flex their  empowered muscles.

Silently Vidya Balan takes  charge  of  Sonu’s future,and by extension, the film itself. Every silent  closeup of her ravaged face and  dream-less eyes scream a thousand protests against generations of patriarchal tyranny. It takes  a  fable  about  a  kingdom where the despotic ruler bans all  birds,  to bring little Sonu back into Mommy’s   favour.The  redemptiom  of little Sonu is celebrated  with a sparkling juicy plate  of jalebis.

In serving up  the saga of  Sonu’s sobering up, Natkhat tells us how important  it is for the mother to teach their sons  to respect women other than the matriarch. In  less than half an hour of playing time Natkhat walks us through a complex , ugly and  morbid  maze  of mardangi  and how  it spreads  its tentacles in the  male gender   from a very young age . Vidya Balan validates  every moment of  her   screen presence . But  the  film belongs to little Miss Sanika Patel who plays Sonu with such heartbreaking sensitivity  .  It takes a woman to let a man know how to respect women.

Natkhat wins our  unconditional respect  for its  validation  of matriarchy as  a pertinent antidote  to male toxicity. If only every woman had Vidya Balan’s strength  of will.

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