Directed by Judhajit Sarkar/ Reviewed by Prarthana Mitra
Conceived and directed by aspiring Kolkata-based filmmaker Judhajit Sarkar, The Pursuant is a twenty-minute long plunge into the unknown. Blending a murder mystery with elements of science-fiction, it has all the bearings of a typical crime thriller, and then some.
The film excels mainly in its performances and high drama, which may be because Sarkar himself hails from the theatrical and acting background. The narrative techniques and creative choices are at times questionable but understandable given the tight budget and the novelty of the script, written by Sarkar and Soumyasree Ghosh.
Sarkar introduces interesting plot points and devices at crucial junctures in the film which serve their purpose in carrying the action forward and helping the film attain its most natural conclusion. Michael, played by Soumyadeep Chakraborty, is the hero in this story. He is blessed with the unique power of being able to travel back in time. This is not meant to suggest anything of metaphorical significance, even though his ability goes on to become the most critical narrative device. Perhaps, Sarkar could have explored the source and implications of this power in Michael’s life, for greater depth. By itself, it nonetheless makes for a very interesting investigative journey.
In many ways, Michael’s arc is the secondary plot despite the fact that his actions are a driving force, giving the plot its traction especially in the second half which is arguably more tightly-woven.
The film begins with the gruesome killing of a woman, Sangeeta, and follows all available leads that can reveal the identity of her unknown assailant. In fact, several young women in the city have been found murdered of late. Michael, who is a friend of Sangeeta’s, is besotted with the idea of retributive vigilante justice.
His powers come in handy as he pursues the killer and the case to its mind-bending culmination. In the end, the film seems to readjust its focus to question the very notions of crime and punishment. It also sees a distraught Michael negotiating with himself, as if considering what he stands to gain and how much he is willing to sacrifice. Audiences familiar with the trope of refrigerating women to give male heroes their purpose may not be too pleased. But Sarkar does try not to make it all about Michael and his powers.
The revelation may leave you breathless or it may not. That is entirely subjective contingent on the viewer. But overall, the sincerity of the film and the hard work of its young cast and crew is evident if not effervescent. The post-production, especially editing, elevates the viewing experience, inasmuch as it straddles both genres without compromising the fast pace demanded by thrillers.
The tension is tautly maintained by a deft manipulation of time and space, although the over-explanatory dialogues dampen the impact at times. Leaving very little for the viewer’s imagination, the film remains true to its theatrical roots. But the magic realism used to depict an all-too-familiar scenario of gender violence in cities, leaves a memorable aftertaste.
The Pursuant released in early 2017 and has since picked up a number of awards at the 2017 Mumbai Asian Short Film Festival, the 14th Kolkata Short Film Festival in 2017, the 54th International Silk Road Film Festival in Istanbul, Santa Monica’s Best Of India Short Film Festival 2018 and DMCS National Short Film Festival in Pune, 2018.