Khalish (Hin)


Director: Vishesh
Duration: 15 min 15 sec
Genre: Drama
Synopsis: Three Hindu friends become suspicious about the sudden changes in the lifestyle of a Muslim neighbor.

Shooting Format: MiniDV
Completed in: June 2010

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Editorial Review

Reviewed by Ansh Pallyal
Warning: This review contains spoilers.

Sometimes a little bit of stringent editing can do a lot. For a well written, well acted and well directed short like this, giving a bit more care to that aspect could have taken it to the next level. This short could have been easily whittled down by around 3-4 minutes. The initial part where Husain talks on phone, his dressing up in his room, his prayer scene, the numerous conversations of the three friends, Husain's recruiting scene etc. could have been shortened without undermining anything in the short.

In terms of writing, this is one of the better Indian short films that I have seen. A good concept has been executed well. The conversations between the three friends have been done well but improvisations in acting could also play a part in making them so good. The expositions in these conversations have been comparatively well handled but some parts could have used a little more fine tuning (like giving out their background in the right wing politics in the carrom board scene) while some expositions are downright crude (like the story of Surya's father).

I don’t want to be nit picky but overall the premise of Husain being a methodical actor rather than a terrorist is not that exactly convincing. The recruiting of Husain required much more deft handling. The director says pointing to the picture of a terrorist- 'Tujhe yeh kaam karna padega. Tumne jo bhi kaam kiya hai, ye unmein sabse bada hai.' 'Ji, aapka seena fakr se uchaoonga, wada raha,' Husain replies. Director says, 'Aise wadon to pal mein toodte hue dekha hai, kya samja? Teri kaabiyat par mujhe koi shak nahin hai, lekin kaam bahut mushkil hai.' Now, is this the way a director talks to his actor regarding the role he is supposed to play? I understand that for maintaining the surprise at the end, this mode of a dialogue delivery was necessary but it could have certainly be shortened to one or two dialogues between the two. Shortening it would have certainly decreased the feeling of clumsiness the whole scene evokes. Also would a methodical actor buy a (fake?) gun to complete the act of a terrorist? I guess it is debatable. If the gun was in the bag that the director's assistant handed over, it is much more unlikely. I don’t think directors would supply method actors with fake machine guns to practice at home. Also why didn’t the three friends realize that it is fake after handling it in the end?

A common problem of our short films plagues this one also. It relies heavily on the crutch of dialogue to move the story forward. Most of the scenes had the potential to be told in a much more visual way with just enough exposition. The writing has to get over the sloppiness in which it introduces whatever it wants to, whenever it wants to, because it feels suitable or helpful. When the three friends are really worried about what is going on with Husain in front of the mosque talking to an devout old man, the nearby man reading a newspaper very conveniently reads out aloud an item about a Moulavi recruiting boys for jihad. He also asks-' yeh jihad hota kya hai?' Like there is some one around literate enough who doesn’t know!

The filmmaker has shown good eye for detail and nuances. But sometimes it is more than what is necessary for a short. The subplot of Surya's brother being ill and getting admitted repeatedly mentioned at carrom board scene and another scene (probably as a device to get Surya off the place for one month) could have been done in a shorter way with just a dialogue.

All the actors have done an exceptionally good job especially the three friends. All of them have perfected dialogue delivery and body language. A wide array of shots are used in some scenes (like where Surya becomes angry after seeing a bearded Husain), which improves the overall quality of the short. The day lighting is overall done well but a bit bland. The scenes in night and semi-darkness has been managed well, ex. the three friends in Husain's room in candlelight, the fire lit scene and the scene where Husain is seen praying. One question regarding the search in the candlelight is that why would they take pains to bring two candles while a torch would have been a more natural and convenient option. Sometimes unnecessary and disconcerting close up shots are used, like that cupboard handle in Husain's room, the contents on his table etc. In the scene in the beginning where Husain responds to the call of the shop keeper, the sound and visuals doesn't sync. I liked the post script (Yeh Khalish kabhi to mithe) though in another situation I would have argued that it is not subtle. Here however it captures the mood in an effective way without being too loud or elaborate.

Viewing this short film as a statement against stereotyping, something occurred to me. A method actor when asked to depict a terrorist, starts growing a beard, does his prayers regularly and dresses like a cleric to step into the groove of a terrorist. Now what would he have done if he was asked to act as a devout, orthodox Muslim who is not a terrorist? Is there no difference between the two? If you are asked to get into the mental wavelength of a terrorist, would doing your prayers and growing a beard (preferably without a mustache) take you there? Or rather would you read their literature, their arguments, their interviews etc to understand their ideologies? When the filmmaker is trying to fight against stereotyping, he appears to be accidentally falling into some other kinds of stereotyping.

Director's Statement

I am an individual who likes to find out more about the world. I express how I feel through my films, stories, poetry, paintings & photography. and I am the only person on this "blue" planet I'd like to know thoroughly.
Khalish is a present day cult drama about apprehension and misunderstanding on one hand and growing Islamophobia and anxiety on the other. The story revolves around 4 guys and a misunderstanding which leads to a disaster, devastating everyone's life. In many parts of India Muslims are still treated with suspicion. I just wanted to initiate a change in that attitude.

Contact Info

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