Directed by: Rahul Nath, Kshitij Salve Starring: Arjun Shrivastav, Richa Meena, Pragya Maheshwari, Sahana Vasudevan Short Film Review by: Jack Bottomley
Many films about abuse or one person attacking another, paint a very simplistic picture of predator and victim but in truth there is so much strength behind a “victim”. The strength to move on with their lives, the strength to overcome an attack or, as is the case with this quite concise but effective piece of film, the strength to fight back in times of fear and danger. Starting off as more of a Tony or Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer esque look at the attacker, Stronger (as suggested by its title) soon shifts into a rather inspiring story of inner strength in the face of peril.
A man (Arjun Shrivastav) is frustrated by his urges and sexual problems and begins to take out his increasingly twisted vexations on women on the street, including one young woman (Richa Meena) who is looking to stand on her own two feet after recently leaving her family home. The transition from a genuinely unsettling, intense and creepily escalating story of a man enforcing his violent fantasies on women, to the story of a young woman embracing her independence and having it brutally tested is quite sudden but it gives Stronger a timely feel.
It is most refreshing to see the strength behind victims of attacks (be they psychological, physical or sexual) presented so well onscreen. Directors/writers Rahul Nath and Kshitij Salve may not have loads of time to flesh out their characters but the limited cast list express some very relatable emotions and characters. Arjun Shrivastav is downright scary at times in how straight faced he is, while internally his character’s mind uncomfortably unravels in the face of his own sexual angst and uncontrollable – and irrational - anger. An early glimpse into his head sets this up in a really horrific way.
However it is Richa Meena who comes to control the film, as a young girl who feels it is time to leave the loving embrace of her dedicated mother (Parveen Kaur) and father (Nishit Broker). Her performance is emotional and resilient and one particularly well edited shot by editor Munishwer Rao, shows the trembling hands and sheer fright in the face of such danger but Meena’s character and performance inspiringly suggests that it is possible to overcome, while the closing moments of the film paint a hopeful picture of how victims are stronger than their violent perpetrators. There is also a very strong turn by Pragya Maheshwari, who features in the short film’s most distressing sequence (on a number of levels) and delivers a fraught performance that raises a number of issues about women, family and the dangers of certain professions.
Director of Photography Yuvraj Jadeja uses settings that are often dark and concentrated highlighting the culture but also applying the themes on a universal scale, while some of the music by Yai is very atmospheric, especially the unnerving riff that plays as the attacker is twitching his hands at the thoughts of his next target. Like the film as a whole though, these unsettling times are overpowered by a very commendable message of celebrating strength and showing how the good people are indeed far stronger than the weaknesses of a predator.
Watch the official movie trailer below...