Koimoi Recommends Meal: In a politically charged environment like the one we are in, my anti-right wing soul craved for a film that questions the system without taking refuge in ‘creative liberties’ (if you know, you know). Chaos is around us everywhere. Machinery that runs the country is creating it; a man sitting in front of the camera is fuelling it more with his prime time privilege. Amid this is Abhiroop Basu’s silent short film that not only tackles domestic violence, but sets it in the muteness all of us suppressed are living in. Yes, I called you suppressed. Assess and counter me!
Director: Abhiroop Basu
Available On: YouTube
A messy house is dead silent. The woman of the house (Ratnabali Bhattacharjee) is severely bruised and is cooking with a deadly zombie gaze, that breaks when the pressure cooker whistles. Symbolically she is boiling, and the pressure has reached the brim. In another room, the husband is packing his things in a suitcase in a jiffy with his injured hand, as if he is leaving home forever. An old man, possibly his father, is observing this as he cannot move. A boy (Abhishek Jain), the sanest of all, is getting ready for his board exams while picking up glass pieces from the floor that possibly shattered while the violence was taking place last night. All of them sit down for a ‘Meal’!
Of course, Meal talks about domestic violence, definitely, the day before has not been an easy one. There has been some physical assault, but why, how, what is forever unknown. There is silence, deafening silence; we don’t know who is on the oppressing side until the suppressed boils and takes the powerful in its heat. It isn’t just a household, metaphorical in my opinion, it is the country we are living in right now.
The oppressor feels his moves are right. Some suppressed are boiling with anger and want revenge (wife). Some cannot do anything about it, because they belong to the lowest platform (disabled father). A few have the privilege to ignore the chaos and live their life like nothing is happening around them (boy). Now apply this blueprint around you and check. Meal neither hides from its political stand nor does it try to sabotage its messaging in the name of cinematic liberties. Abhiroop Basu makes it very clear when he makes the protestors in the broken bylane name the Prime Minister of our country Narendra Modi, without even thinking twice.
There is a beauty in being brutally honest, and Meal enjoys that. The citizens of our country last year, till the pandemic hit us, were on the verge of giving ‘agni pariksha’ to prove their identity (read nationality here). Abhiroop adds that to the boiling broth that his film already is. The boy who is watching the prime time, as he listens to the news of riots due to CAA-NRC row, immediately bends down and tears a stick of some God from his writing pad. He chooses to stay alive over dying for religious disharmony.
There is a lot to unravel in Meal. It is 10 minutes of sheer deafening silence translated by some of my most favourite actors, including Ratnabali, Adil and Arun Mukhopadhyay. Abhishek, whom I have seen for the first time is also impressive.
While all of the above, Meal would not have been the gem it is if not for the gut-wrenching music and sound design by Aakash Ghoshal and Sujoy Das. The two create chaos in this silent household with the help of things. Broken glass pieces, the ticking clock, utensils and everything else on the lanes that the open windows of this claustrophobic house lead to.
DOP Deep Metkar is the man of the match here. His frames speak louder than anything else in this beautiful production design. He purposely cuts the frame in two multiple times, showing you the stark contrast of the world the film is trying to show. If you ever read this Deep, I have a lot of questions.
Watch Meal, and you should. Not because I am anti-right wing and that I want to expand my clan, but to open your eyes. To make you see the unknown boiling, to make you aware of the privileged silence and to make you aware of what monsters oppression can create.
PS: The climax is enough to give you at least one sleepless night. Two in my case. Okay, that’s enough for today!