Directed by Aneesh Jhamb | Reviewed by Sabarno
At the outset, I must say that Nok Jhok was a very enjoyable short film, dealing with the troubles of an old couple and their son. The opening sequence of shots is very well-knitted and captured right from the cake and the decorations to the expressions of the husband and wife. The still OTS shots have worked wonder to heighten tension and make the entire situation more dramatic. Thereafter, the DOP has ingeniously panned the camera panning repeatedly to show the two which has of course made the entire sequence rather dramatic. Undoubtedly, this is one of the signs of a good cinematographer.
The variety of shots that have been taken to show the same things proves that the cinematographer has a good eye for drama and knows how to take shots to make the entire sequence very exciting for the audience. The director must have been able to convey their own thoughts very well. The editing has also, therefore, suited the purpose and mood of the script. Cuts have been made in such a manner so as to continue the same action from one place to another or to continue a sense of similar space such as the knife on the cake, the shutting of the refrigerator and so on. I really enjoyed this ingenuity.
Another very helpful technique is to show the impact created by a particular action as it happens. This calls for very innovative shot composition and I was rather pleased to notice that the crew had attempted this in the short film. When the fights, we find shots of the boy not being able to sleep and being quite disturbed. These are quite good for the audience as they help them engage with the world of the characters in a comprehensive manner, from multiple angles.
The Cold War of sounds between the two parties was something that I absolutely loved and it was quite hilarious to see the plight of the poor son who was caught in the crossfire. The use of the television and the machines and objects in the kitchen as arms and ammunition between the two parties was something that I found to be quite intriguing and conveying a very Indian spirit. The scriptwriter deserves praise for this particular scene as they were able to convey a brilliant war of words through the use of sounds!
The final scene of the film in which the couple drink tea and converse started off in the right spirit and it was good to watch as there was a happy resolution after conflict but the shots were very repetitive here. The classic shot reverse shot was used, which is fine otherwise, but when the director has used diverse kinds of shots while showing conversation, it is only natural that we would expect such diversity in the scene.
As a light hearted film, I would say that this would work well with a commercial audience as it does not spend too much time on either conflict or resolution but maintains a steady level of escalation till the climax (and a literal crescendo) in the TV fight scene. The climactic moment is sustained through most of the pizza scene till the woman begins to talk about how different her husband is from her own father, who had never supported any of the work she did. In the following scene, she comes across hard proof for this: the husband sharing her artwork in his work group. The resolution follows. This kind of a tight and well-knit structure is very much necessary for a short film. Hence, in terms of the structure of the story, I see no flaws. A thought that did strike me once the film ended was why was the entire son-going-abroad trail injected into the film? The film would perhaps have made equal sense to an audience if it were just a son being there who is disturbed. The fact that the son is going abroad doesn’t have much of an impact on the plot except one or two instances which could be easily replaceable. In the very end, they discuss the character of the son with respect to his going abroad. This could perhaps have been done otherwise as well though the fact that the son is leaving the country makes it more probable. What I am hinting at is the fact that this element could have been developed in the story further so as to not make it seem forced upon the plot since we already know little to nothing about the son, who is mostly a passive character.
The quality of acting displayed by the father/husband was par excellence. The same could be said of the mother/wife. However, I felt that her acting during the phone call with her own mother was not up to the mark but then again, doing a one-sided call convincingly on the screen is not very easy as well; it is perhaps one of the hardest things to pull off. Nothing much can be said about the acting of the son, which basically implies that he fit the scenes very well and did not do anything jarring.
Finally, coming to the technical aspects of the film, I believe I have written about the cinematographic marvels of the film extensively. The only complaint I have in this broad area would be the bad quality of audio in certain scenes. It can be understood that certain scenes were dubbed or a microphone had been used. But the same cannot be said of the other scenes. While using sync sound is not a bad practice, it could be dangerous if not used throughout the film. When the audience hears crystal clear dialogues in one scene and right after that, lines marred by the sound of cars, the fan and other things, they can easily understand what is happening. This is why I would advise directors to use one kind of sound: either sync sound, or dubbed sound throughout the film.
Sabarno Sinha is an undergraduate student of English at Jadavpur University, Kolkata. He was active in the debating and MUN circuit in Kolkata. Sabarno frequently writes short stories, poems and screenplays for short films. A lover of world cinema, Sabarno finds pleasure in watching contemporary as well as classic films from Japan, Italy and Germany among others.