Film Review: 'Kriti'
Opened: 22 June 2016 (UK)
Cast: Manoj Bajpayee, Radhika Apte, Neha Sharma, Manu Rishi
Director: Shirish Kunder
Kriti is Shirish Kunder’s (Jaan-e-mann, Joker) latest directorial effort and is a short, near-20 minute film starring Manoj Bajpayee, Radhika Apte and Neha Sharma. The film, initially released on YouTube and on the website which co-produced the film, muvizz.com, has gotten embroiled in an ugly copyright infringement controversy with Nepali director Aneel Neupane alleging that the film is a rip-off of his own film Bob. Kriti has subsequently been taken off YouTube but is still available to watch on muvizz.com.
For the purpose of objectivity, this review will not attempt to draw comparisons between Kriti and Bob and will only look at Kriti as a single entity.
Kriti centres around Sapan (Manoj Bajpayee), a lone, psychologically troubled man who has a close relationship with his therapist Dr. Kalpana, played by Radhika Apte, with whom he discusses his personal life in detail during therapy. He talks about his new relationship with his agoraphobic girlfriend Kriti, who has moved into his house within a month of meeting him. Dr. Kalpana throws doubts about her existence as Sapan has a tendency towards having imaginary friends (a former “imaginary” friend called ‘Rachna’ is alluded to, hinting at past issues). Sapan is baffled and tries to prove to Dr. Kalpana that she exists while starting to doubt to himself whether she does, and the rest of the story unfolds from there on.
First off, Kriti is a valiant effort by a filmmaker who’s had more misses than hits to produce something out of the ordinary. Written and directed by Kunder, the film manages to engage from the get-go and builds up tension with the aid of dramatic camera angles, quick cuts between shots, close ups and suspenseful music. There is no doubt that Kunder’s editing skills haven’t lost their edge (Kunder was a noted film editor before venturing into film direction).
The film travels at a crackling pace and the plot is established quickly. It’s the final few moments, however, that let the film, and the viewer, down with a plot twist so predictable that it can be sensed a mile off, even with the twist being established in the run up to the big reveal. What was probably intended to be a chilling twist to a a terse psychological thriller ends up almost anti-climactic because the truth is the twist at the end has been successfully attempted in other psychological thrillers, desi as well as videsi (no films will be named here, because if they are, it’ll be a spoiler!), which is perhaps why it’s not so much a surprise when all is revealed but more of a ‘I told you so!’.
One also wishes that the film would have been longer to explain the truly troubled psyche of Sapan. The film’s length restricts us getting a look into why Sapan is the way he is. He is the central character in the film and also the most interesting, yet there’s no indication of how he came to be. What could have been an interesting backstory and character arc is forgotten for the sake of providing a shorter running time. This isn’t trying to imply that Kriti should have been a feature length film, but perhaps a longer short film. Also, Kriti’s agoraphobia seems almost too convenient, an easy plot device to explain away a plot detail.
It is perhaps because the reveal is such a let down that it’s hard to appreciate the positives, of which, to be fair, there are plenty. Manoj Bajpayee is faultless! The actor immerses himself in the role of the troubled Sapan with methodical precision and is balanced effortlessly by his counterpart, Radhika Apte, who has yet to give critics a reason to complain. It’s almost as if his yin is balanced by her yang, which is needed as that is what the story requires them to be in terms of character arcs. They play off of each other and together, they hoist the film to a level which would have not been achieved with less capable performers. The weakest link in the entire film is Neha Sharma who has a long way to go in terms of matching the other two. Her rendition of an agoraphobic woman scared out of her mind is unconvincing.
Thematically, Kunder is clever in using contrasts to cinematically enhance Sapan’s psyche. His delusions seem even more maniacal against the serene, bright colours of his house, interspersed with blatant signs of his mania (the creepy mannequins and disturbing portraits). Where most filmmakers would have used dark colours, Kunder uses sunshine and all things cheerful to emphasize Sapan’s derangement. It’s almost as if all is well, but there’s a hint of something askew.
All said and done, Kriti is still an entertaining and enjoyable short film, while still being bogged down by a predictable climax. A short film with well-known actors like this is still a rarity and hopefully this film garners more attention to this specific cinematic medium. Who knows, maybe in a couple of years, Kriti will be seen as a pioneer for a different type of cinema!