Horror. That’s the one emotion that writer and director Prabhakar Meena Bhaskar Pant’s short film Chumbak leaves you with. Not only because it is rare to watch pedophilia being discussed, but also because one obviously hopes to never watch it being discussed in so flippant a manner. Like it’s a gag; a trick placed just right to grab the viewer’s attention.
In The Short Cuts’ 2017 production, the protagonists are played by theatre actor Suruchi Aulakh and Marathi film actor Pushkar Shrotri, who seem misplaced. Wasted even.
The film begins in Nasik, and plays out in a manner that’s reminiscent of an episode of Crime Patrol. Except, the crime isn’t what the film’s introduction leads you to believe. Playing a married couple, Suruchi’s character lets us know that just like in millions of households across the country, in this household too, the man’s wishes take centrestage. Since he does not want a child, they do not have one, since he likes to have sex a certain way, that’s how they do it. His wishes first. A fact that she’s seemingly made her peace with. Till her husband brings home a boy without asking or even informing her.
She rallies, but her efforts to raise the kid as her own is met with suspicion by the husband. Till one day she accidentally discovers the reason behind his eccentric behaviour.
From here on Chumbak starts feeling entirely gimmicky. In a country where countless young boys and girls are molested, abused and more often than not left with life-long scars that cannot heal – to watch the theatrics of a fake murder playing out to soothe the nerves of a wife in denial is excruciating to say the least. All of this while the teenager in question, played by Deepanshu Dhyani, watches on like a mute spectator with not a single dialogue to offer, be it of anger or sorrow. As if his life hasn’t been affected by the reprehensible adults he lives with.
This Chumbak entirely fails to stick.