Written by: #AyeshaBanerjee
Directed by: #NeerajMehhta
Kaali Peeli is a soulful portrayal of innocence and confidence.
It is rare to be genuinely surprised by a film, and this is a delightful example of the fact that it is possible. It is strikingly short, but this somehow adds a kind of magic and fits perfectly with its dreamlike, reflective tone. It turns the film into one of those pieces of time that quickly come and go but leave profound and everlasting concepts.
Technically the film is great, with an absorbing sequence. Setting in the night is a brilliant creative decision, and one which the director of lighting Abid Ali clearly relished in an almost playful way. The casting, an aspect of film which is understatedly key, is spot on. Lyla Beg in particular is so genuine and giving in her performance as Maya at her extremely young age that, as cliche as it sounds, she is full of potential. Waisa Khan is so compelling as Maya’s protective yet encouraging mother that she brings the bond between mother and daughter to full life. The honesty of their bond is the hopeful thread in the story.
The film manages to be multilayered in its brief duration of less than five minutes, and this is thanks also to how well it is written. The dialogue is at once smooth and incisive, and I’d highlight once more the choice to set it at night. As well as being almost literary in its meaning, it is poignant for a reason that may have or may not have been deliberate, which is that during these times of pandemic, children have seen their mental health deeply affected, with a key symptom being sleeplessness. Maya is sleepless with worry, and it is impossible not to read her situation through a generational lens, a lens which also questions whether society today is less discriminatory than it was, say, 150 years ago. The fact that the story centres on a child facing discrimination from another child is striking and, as the writer has said, based on a real situation. It puts a current creative focus on an issue that would have been easy and sometimes more socially convenient to treat as a remnant of the past.
This film is thoroughly of its time as well as sweetly future facing and optimistic. A piece of sharp beauty.