Directed by: #Mohan Singh Gaharwar
Written by: #Mohan Singh Gaharwar
A film with such potent subject matter usually demands a lot to be said about it, but Mohan Singh Gaharwar's SHE does not seem to do much to offer discussion. Some conversations are one-sided, and this is one of them. In fact, with the one-and-a-half-minute film consisting of only two characters in a limited scenario, all shot in disturbing proximity to actors Chirag Mandawaria (He) and Sunanda Singh (the eponymous She), the film is not so much a conversation as a hurried command.
The minimal setting offers vast possibilities, as filmmakers have often exploited. However, here the minimalism feels more like a lack than a benefit. The characters are virtually unexplored. Their motives, other than a suggested drinking problem in a shot of He with a glass of what seems to be bourbon, are equally vacant.
Nonetheless, the overall thematic message is clear. This film is against domestic abuse. The staccato editing helps to convey this, with the intercutting of the two characters becoming increasingly claustrophobic. This pushes the film into a space of paranoia, intended no doubt to convey some of the fear of the situation. But the situation itself is not one that can be plainly dramatised and still understood with sensitivity. It is not enough to achieve this with editing tricks and close-ups, not without substantial skill.
Because no real examination of the characters is made, the film is left feeling more like a TV spot, or a PSA on the psychological aspects of domestic abuse. But the ending remains confusingly unclear. Locking the door, She reaches for a gnarled wooden stick, hefty enough to do some damage if swung at a human face. Is Gahawar suggesting that victims of domestic violence should react with more violence? Or is the character simply trying to defend herself? Either way, if taken as a public service announcement, the conclusions are worrying.
Whatever criticisms should be thrown at the film, the film itself should not be thrown away. It is crucial that films such as SHE are produced in the continuous present, as they display a topic of real threat, of real relevance. Sadly, the old melodramatic tropes can be used as a template, copy-pasted from previous material, meaning that the plot can be non-existent, the characters hollowed-out. In any case, the advice such a film might take upon itself to offer must be transparent. SHE is a conversation that should be had, but must be had properly.