Directors: Shridar and Paras
Sankalp (the name of the short film’s protagonist) is the story of a young boy (excellently played by Deepanshu Phalswal) told in parenthesis as his older self (Anhay Naagar) confidently trains in a boxing gymnasium whilst casting thoughts back to a turning point in his life when he decided to confront his persecutors.
At this earlier point, in a local recreation area two very glib bullies (Tansihq Dagar and Prince Dahiya) take pleasure in making the smaller, younger Sankalp go through the humiliating ritual of tying one of the bully’s shoelaces (after deliberately untying them first). Clearly affected by this (and many a beating) the young boy sits at home watching (and re-watching) boxing matches – preferably a classic match between Roberto Duran and Sugar Ray Leonard. As he religiously glares at the screen, we hear a voiceover in which his father berates him for neglecting his schooling (instead wanting to learn to box) asking ‘who will provide for you when I’m gone.’ Later there’s a scene where his brother sits with him on a wall also expressing their fathers (and his) concerns in relation to this, stating that boxing ‘isn’t for the weak.’ This seems to be the spur Sankalp needed – he’s not weak.
Thus, our protagonist continues his alternate schooling through televisual boxing tutorials (his eyes lit against the screens glare in close-up) - later practicing everything he’s seen out on the shabby recreation ground.
We can assume, I think, that this is done for a considerable period (given his father’s ongoing concerns) but it’s obviously something very urgent and personal for him. Initially (on TV) as a form of escapism from a negative situation he’s confronted with but as is later revealed, a path to liberation from his oppressors which is realised when we see him re-enter the recreation ground that has clearly been the site of many a humiliation, but this time he calmly strides towards his bullies.
Laughing and unconcerned, the same bully as before unties his shoelaces but is this time now confronted by his young interlocutor in a boxing pose. The camera shows the other bully’s smug smile, but this expression turns to one of shock as we hear (but don’t see) a punch confidently landed, then a shot of the other bully flat out on the floor.
Transported forward we see the older version of our protagonist confidently training in the boxing gym, a professional now and we discover through the words of his trainer that he’s just won an important semi-final. We additionally learn that he now has the chance to box for his country. As his trainer states that this opportunity ‘is like climbing a mountain’ he stops to think, visualising the younger, bullied version of himself (in complete silence) training in the corner of the boxing ring, and so remembering the story of what he’s already overcome he drops in head and continues to train – he’s ready. The credits then roll at the end of the short to the sound of Sankalp training.
Sankalp forms a very complete narrative within eight minutes combining competent camera work with editing and is confidently and convincingly acted. To that extent it keeps it simple (which serves its purpose) and completes its goal competently.
I felt the slow, hypnotic music with its gradual crescendo towards Sankalp’s knock-out was particularly effective too. One can choose perhaps to read more into the fact that Sankalp had to fight against his father’s wishes (and not just overcome bullies) to get to where he is or that his father’s message is a little confused between education over boxing whilst not being weak. But then maybe Sankalp (with no choice) sacrificed education not to be weak, gaining empowerment in another way. Even the name Sankalp means ‘to take a pledge’ but again that depends on how much you choose to read into the film.
Personally, I found it an affecting and enjoyable film short.