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Unpaused Naya Safar Is Just The Booster To  Uplift Our Covid Afflicted Morale

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Unpaused Naya Safar 

Unpaused Naya Safar(Amazon Prime Video, Anthology Of  5 Stories)

Rating: ****

To paraphrase a beloved  pop songs of  the  1970s:  “All You  Get From Covid Is  Covid Cinema”

Luckily  for  us  Unpaused Naya Safar  is not only  well  worth our time and  attention , this five-tiered omnibus is  better more  sensitively designed than the  first season that came in  2020.  Unpaused Naya Safar actually constitutes  4  stories  of varying merit, and one  outright masterpiece.

Quite like Neeraj Ghaywan’s Geeli Pucchi  in  the anthology Ajeeb Dastaans, Nagraj Manjule’s Vaikunth in Unpaused is  so far ahead  of the  other  four  segments it deserved a  full feature-length   treatment . It’s like the Amitabh Bachchan  of the anthology towering above the rest with its  razorsharp  brilliance and acute insight  into human nature during stressful times. An aching darkness spreads  over  the story as   the  film’s  protagonist  , a cremator in  a crematorium who suddenly has a full season  over his had as  corpses drive in  to the  burning ground in wailing  ambulances that couldn’t care less and shrieking relatives whose grief has no comfort.

Nagraj  Manjule in the main role  confers  a haunting  tragic ethos on the situation. Day-in and  day-out he  burns the  abandoned  bodies  unattended  by all except  those very  close; his own father  is  afflicted  and his little son has no roof on his head as  the  landlord  evicts them  pleading he has to think  of his own health safety.There is death, danger diseases everywhere in Nagraj Manjule’s brilliantly shot   uniquely  executed story. There are  also spurts  of savage  humour(son  weeping at  the wrong pyre).Manjule   chooses to end this grim tale  of  a  wounded  civilization  on a note of  hope, and a welcome one at that.

Equally  grim is War Room, my second-favourite story  of the  anthology , directed by Ayappa KM about frontline  workers grappling  in  a helpline organization trying to find beds  and oxygen  cylinders. There is dread of  diseases and death shrouding every moment of this heartstopping story.  The  unfailingly brilliant Gitanjali Kulkarni is   teacher turned  Covid  frontworker with a tragic secret that comes out in  an unexpected twist of fate. More than the twist, I   loved the sense of  imminent doom that the director conveys while keeping the tone of narration steady and calm.

Also Read:  “Salim Ghouse Was The Victim Of Colour Prejudice,”  Shyam Benegal   

Teen Tigada  steers in out of Covid fears as  three itinerant  labourers are stranded in an abandoned factory with a  truckload  of  expensive goods.  The three  actors seen on screen are  so immersed  in  their  shared  world  of  unalloyed  despair that their  bouts of  anger and  hunger  seem all too tangible.Director  Ruchir Arun’s sheds empathy  for  the wandering  migrants whose future looks so abysmally devoid of hope, and yet there is  laughter and  sunshine in this story thanks  to the three actors Saqib Saleem, Ashish Verma and Sam Mohan specially Sam who is the  quietest least expressive of the  trio, and perhaps the most wounded.

Gond Ka Laddu plays it  over-cute with Neena Gupta locking horns with a  courier boy(Lakshvir Singh  Sharan)  who  ruins her surprise for her daughter when the her laddus are crushed  in a road accident. What follows is  an unbelievable  leap of faith, rendered  convincing  by the heartwarming  performances(Darshana Rajendran as the  courier  boy’s supportive  girlfriends is  the ultimate spot of sunshine in a  world blinded by darkness)  and by our  desperate  need to  find  some light at  the end of the tunnel.

The  Couple , the  final story of this ambrosial anthology is also highly connectible  and  genuinely  likeable A young couple, played with  understated  smartness  by Shreya Dhanwanthary and Priyanshu Painyuli , lock horns during the lockdown when  the wife loses her job. The taunts,jibes  bitter rage  and growing frustration…all have their say in  Nupur Asthana’s   evocatively shot  short film with lissom , if   langorous,  legs.

The stories even in their weakest moments  never  fail to  wedge  themselves  in our hearts.The actors are  fully invested into bringing back to us episodes and moments from the past  two years that  resonate with all of us, though in no intrusive  aggressive way. Easy does  it.

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