The Table Fan Story
14 Apr 2022
Kaushal Shah, Viswas Rastrapal
Tarjanee Bhadla, Mehool Desai, Premal Yagnik, Heena Akolkar
A pensive and painful domestic drama that looks at how parental pressure can push us away, and how it feels to come back.
Underscored by ruminative and brooding music, a daughter returns to her family home with her new partner, opening up old wounds and uncovering new tensions. The weighty score does a lot to tonally immerse us in the meditative tragedy. The lighting is drab and cold, creating an unwelcoming environment which reinforces the discomfort of being back in a now-hostile space.
The resentment of the woman’s father is the driving force behind their intergenerational conflict. His bitterness exhibits the complex boundaries of parental love. By building a life outside their family, he sees her growth as rejection. The binary nature of his affection suggests a kind of conditional love that’s all or nothing. Either she must be fully committed to her family and accept them for the good and the bad, or she can abandon them entirely to find a new life. She has chosen the latter, which from her perspective is the only available solution.
The use of flashbacks throughout allows for a balanced reading of this conflict, introducing a more sympathetic view of what was lost by her parents. Her father wants his effort to be appreciated, pointing to a guitar, a book, a frame; all totems of affection which he feels have been overlooked. Feeling taken for granted, her abandonment feels all the more cruel to him.
He also suggests a feeling of responsibility for her making “mistakes,” implying a prescriptive nature of parenting which leads to them becoming defensive at any rogue acts outside of their strict ideals. By breaking the mould, signified by ripping up a picture of them as an act of rebellion, she has turned her back on those ideals. Her parents mark not only constriction, but a warning of where her life will lead her. Her father cautions her not to “become like your mother,” stressing the overhanging threat of the older generation.
The quietness of their conflict is balanced between the burning tension of the father and daughter, and the diplomacy of their respective partners. Attempting to ease the process and bring some gentle harmony, their physical presences provide some padding to the central conflict, allowing for small moments of reflection away from their antagonism.
In particular, her new partner represents a different perspective on family, as a man without parents. She tells them “he values family and relations,” indicating how we take for granted the connections we have never sincerely feared losing. This external view of the have-nots suggests some envy of their family conflict, and the love behind it that stokes it. Evidently there is something unappreciated in the mere fact of having people who are close enough to hurt us. Taking a step back from that harsh intimacy, he embodies the other half of this dialectic view of parental pressure. We want it but we don't; its inspiration coming from a place of love, yet resulting in a feeling of claustrophobia.
The shot of the titular table fan finds the parents lost to the background, and then fan itself focused in the foreground — its symbolic value in its rotation and constant presence. Moving in the same cycles over and over again, we can find similar notions in a toxic relationship between an overbearing parent and a child pushed and pulled back and forth.
While sat in their familial tension, the flashbacks then seem to collide with the present, the voices of their former and current selves colliding and overlapping. The meshing of these realities can be also seen in the tension between their two generations. Their feelings of regret and hindsight are represented formally, pushing our once-hopeful younger selves to contend with our now-disillusioned current selves.