Long Day’s Journey:
The best short films have to fill in the few minutes of their run time with either charming simplicity or a complexity that leaves the viewer affected in unexpected ways.
Soumyak Kanti DeBiswas’s 16-minute film The Daughter, has packed a lot in—family histories, fraught relationships, difficult decisions, life-altering journeys—all set in a place where the violence outside threatens to explode
Ira Dubey plays Indu, the daughter, who has to drive her father (Naseeruddin Shah), through riot-hit streets to a destination that indicates the end of the road for them, in different ways. He quotes poetry (Ira Dubey’s father Ravi Dubey’s poems translated by Aamir Aziz, and recited in Shah’s incomparable voice), but underneath his levity is a well of emotions that neither of them allows to overflow. Perhaps they have had the discussions and arguments earlier, and there is nothing more to say. The young woman shows reluctance once, at what he is asking her to do, the moral choices he is forcing her to make on his behalf—but she is resigned to go through with it.
The silences that punctuate the verses convey what might have been missing in their relationship. It takes a reading of the synopsis to clarify that the cause of the strain, and the man’s impossible demand is alcohol addiction. In the starkness of the background and the economy of the visuals (the desolation or landscape and faces captured beautifully by cinematographer Ranabir Das) that point does not quite come across. The story does end on a shocking note, and a surge of sympathy for Indu, who will have to live with the memories of that day. Ira Dubey, whose work on stage is consistently remarkable, plays the daughter with depth and maturity.
The film, with Jitendra Shastri and Chitrangada Satarupa in supporting roles, has the kind of plot that could be expanded into a full-length feature—it takes up an important issue that is not mentioned here, for fear of spoilers, but one that needs a larger social debate in India.