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Unpaused Gives Us Reason To Be Thankful For Lockdown



Unpaused Gives Us Reason To Be Thankful For Lockdown 10

Unpaused(Amazon Prime  Video)

Directed  by   Raj-DK,  Nikkhil Advani, Tannishtha Chatterjee, Avinash Arun Dhaware, Nitya Mehra

Rating: ****
There is an awkward  moment between  the  classy Lilette Dubey and her  young  unlikely Covid companion when the former….there’s no polite way of putting this…farts.

Both the women laugh off the  moment in a way that can only happen when there  is  deep comfort level between two people. This  moment in   Unpaused, a resplendent  anthology of  five Covid –related  film,emblematizes the  absolutely unforeseen equations and  bondings that the pandemic had perpetrated.

 Straightaway,  I  must say the anthology comes as a welcome  surprise. When  I heard  of a  Covid anthology  I  thought it would one of those let’s-make-hay-while-the-sun-shines kind of  obscenely exploitative ventures. Thankfully, the  films are  born out of  compassion rather than greed. The Covid theme  flows organically  out of the stories  , and the  characters are  never allowed to  feel sorry  for themselves. These are  bright stories  burnished with a directorial acumen that elevates the  theme from a topical   statement  to an enduring experience.

In the  story  Rat-a-Tat(inaptly  clever  title  just because  it’s  got a rat  in  it) one  of my favourite  segments  of the omnibus, a  65-year old uperclass woman(Lilette Dubey)  finds herself getting close  to a young feisty  Maharashtrian girl who moves in from nextdoor when a rat infests her  apartment.A potentially manipulative formula film(two women from  diverse  generations  and  culture  locked  up together in one home) grows into a gentle,warm,engaging study of the human condition when pushed to the  wall. In case  you  had forgotten  how accomplished  Lilette is as an actor here she is, in full command  over a story  that needed the two women to feel  like a makeshift family. The surprise is  Rinku Rajguru, the Sairat girl whose eyes dance as though  they know the secret  of  staying happy during a  crisis. Tannishtha Chatterjee  directs the two women with that nurturing care that comes naturally to a woman director.

Another gem in the anthology is also directed by a woman. Nitya Mehra’s Chand Mubarak  about an unlikely bonding between a lonely aging woman and an   autorickshaw driver is again buoyed and  navigated effortlessly through  a tricky maze  of  overt sentimentality,  by the two actors  in central roles. Ratna Pathak Shah is  superb as a lonely  cantankerous autumnal woman trapped  under an emotional lockdown. Newcomer  Shardul Bhardwaj as the  autorickshaw driver is  a discovery. Actors and  not stars  guide  these stories to their  apt  destinies.

 The  best  segment  of  the  anthology is  cinematographer-director Avinash Arun Dhaware’s   Vishaanu, a  deeply  moving  though  stubbornly unsentimental  story of a  Rajasthani migrant  wage-earning couple  and their  son  waiting after the lockdown to be taken home, making a highrise duplex abandoned by its ownwers  their temporary  home, as the man makes anxious inquiries  on how to  transport himself and family to their  village.He obviously hasn’t met  Sonu Sood. So he  must  negotiate with sleazy ambulance drivers using their vehicles to make money out of miserable  migrants.

Through  it all, there  are  the skilled  actors  Abhishek Bannerjee  and Geetika Vidya Ohlyan suffering and  dancing their way into viral fame from  a posh place to stay   and  a city that doesn’t belong to them. Geetika  in a sequence where she makes  all the right noises  about Mumbai in exchange of food and masks,is  a class act,as too when her face  crumbles on realizing that the temporary luxury  abode must come  to an end.Director-cinematographer  Avinash Arun (remember his  brilliant Marathi film Killa?) shoots  the deserted  streets of Mumbai and the uneasily lit makeshift  home  of the couple in colours  of poetic resonance.This  segment is  a certifiable masterpiece.

The Apartment with Richa Chadha  effectively playing a  career woman betrayed by her husband,  who decides to  kill herself and is saved by a kindly charming neighbour(Ishwak Singh)  suffers from a crammed plot. Too much is  being said here, in too little time. While the Covid  theme hovers uneasily around the  characters, director  Nikkhil Advani focuses on  bringing in the MeToo movement with  Chadha’s  husband(Sumeet Vyas, in an embarrassingly sketchy role as a sexual  harasser) getting  over-familiar with all his female staffers. Couldn’t this  just have been the story of  a  depressed suicidal woman  and her  neighbour?Isn’t that depressing enough?

Raj and Dak’s Glitch is the quirkiest segment .Its bright  blotchy colours and unpredictable narrative pattern  suggest   the hands  of  directors  who want to have fun with this futuristic story  of  Covid bringing together a hypochondriac(Gushan Devaiah) and Covid warrior(Sayami Kher). After meeting  in a  virtual bar named ‘Men Are From Bars’(ha ha)   the  duo  delves   devilishly into their  crazy lines and  zany situations.  It’s  all  very new and also somewhere  deep down an anxious  attempt to  make light of a  grim situation.

Unpause is empowered  by a fierce  flavor of  optimism amidst the  current Coronova crisis.  It’s a remarkable anthology filled with  hope courage and  sunshine.Makes us  grateful that at least some  good has come out of  the  terrible  crisis.

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