It is easy to get riled up in a dialogue of women empowerment, even more so when we get male perspectives presented on screen. One can only look at it with a suspicious eye which I think is always the right thing to do. When a friend of mine shared his short film, I decided to shut my suspecting eye for a while.
What does one see while children play together? Is the playground a naturally gender free space? The answer would be a No, as this societal construct has always managed to pervade all spaces. But given that gender is a framework that children are slowly introduced to/ identify/ associate over time, it is safe to assume that they consider the space as one to play and have fun with their friends. In their world, there is only curiosity of differences, not presumed identities. I do not intend to further delve into the politics of gender for now.
Meesha- a lockdown that never ends, the short film is a thematic take on the impact of the lockdown in a household in a small locality set in Kerala. The short film is rich with aptly set background music and audio transitions. One cannot help but simply smile at the use of colloquial language that comes up in the idyllic interactions between a bunch of youth and children. With multiple shots of gully cricket, one is instantly drawn into the nostalgic memories of childhood. The swinging motion of the camera leaves the viewers with a feeling of being present in their world; in the characters’ backyards – their playground.
The opening shot is that of a boy rushing past an open field, rolling out the action and suspense at the same time. The film ends with a similar shot but one where the boy is running towards the audience; almost fluttering like a happy butterfly, indicative of some sense of liberation.
Imagery within the context of lockdown is brilliantly explored in the 7-8 minute duration. The use of light is explored well as we see the mother guiding the daughter into the house through the darkened corridors, while the boy stands outside in the gleaming daylight. Well executed shots add to making this visual narrative more appealing.
A father figure grooming his moustache while establishing norms of behavior for his children, especially the daughter is the crux of the film. One sees how ridiculous it is, as the girl child is only asking for a little while to play with her brother and friends.
The film portrays that patriarchy functions within a familial setup; it is not simply due to establishment by the man but also by the meek acceptance of the woman in the family setup. Both are responsible for the sustenance of the system. The film ends with a very innocent portrayal of hope, giving one a sense that this gendered lockdown must be put to an end. The director ties up the script with a textual frame- “You pink and I blue, but we flutter across the same sky” that is open to interpretation by the viewer.
My approval for this view on empowerment comes for it not being dangerously patronising. The film depicts the innocence of a young one, helping his sister & playmate accompany him to play together. We observe that the little boy uses the means he can access – through evasion of the male figure, to find a solution to this problem of his playmate being locked in. The attempt to portray a complex concept by means of the playful world of children, is appreciated. I leave you to continuously think and question whether the play area is gender-free and whether it should be; what gender means to children and hence the society as a whole.
You can watch the short film here: