‘It’s all about the characters in this tale of a Haryana village’
In the middle of the short film Amma Meri, directed by Tarun Jain, we can watch a news clip playing in a tea stall, in which the Badayun rape case is been discussed. The protagonist Balram can be seen listening to the news and feeling worried for his daughter, as she is still to be married. This is the reason of the conflict through which the protagonist is going through.
The movie starts with a long shot of a tree in a village, where suddenly we see a lot of dust in the air, and an old man falling down. We come to know that the old man was the father of the protagonist Balram, who lives in a Haryana village with his wife, an unmarried 25 year old daughter and an ailing old mother. A friend of his tells him that if his mother gives her thumb impression, he can get an amount from her fixed deposit, and if she dies, he will get whatever money it has. With a daughter who, according the society, is beyond her marriageable age, he thinks of getting his mother to do the process quickly, but his mother, who is shown sitting still for the first three times, becomes bedridden and is not able to go on a bike for a many days.
The dilemma in Balram’s mind can be seen throughout the film. He is a milk seller, so he cannot arrange for such a large amount by himself. The people around him fuel his tension. On one hand, a friend comes with proposals for her daughter which required dowry, also the fact that at this age his daughter might run away with someone to defame the family, if the marriage doesn’t happen soon enough. On the other hand, his other friend, played by Shivam Pradhan, wants him to get the fixed deposit to his name as quickly as possible. If we look at his activities, he gets drunk, he shouts at his daughter for being late because she misses the train, which gives us the feeling that he can do something wrong in order to get things done. His daughter as well doesn’t seem to respect him. So what will happen? Will his mother die, or will he do something which kills her? What will happen to his daughter? These are some questions that linger inside our minds.
Anurag Arora does a great job conveying the dilemma that Balram is going through. Other actors like Diksha Lamba, Raghubir Maan, Shivam Pradhan, and Devki Rani as Amma did a decent job. The director Tarun Jain and the cinematographer Karan Thapliyal attempt to establish a scene by staying in it for a bit longer. It looks good, but can be tiring after a while. One remembers a scene from Ship of Theseus where monks are shown to be walking for about 5 minutes, where after a while you get bored. However, the director’s attempt to be realistic is successful. But, one can commend the way they shot a lot of difficult scenes, especially the scenes on the motorbike.
We can say this film belongs to the French school of La Nouvelle Vague which started in the 1960s, and of which Godard is a big part of. The takes are longer, it stays on the current issues rather than dwelling into the past, tries to be as realistic as it can be, and it doesn’t solve the crisis in the end. Which means no resolution. Life doesn’t have any resolution and these movies reflect life. The director of the movie Tarun Jain, is not trying to give any direct message from the movie, but wants to show the reality as it is. The way common people might react in an extraordinary situation is what we witness in the movie.
In the end the movie is a character study of the people living in a village. How they think, how the society interacts with them, and how that influences on the choices they make. It is up to the audience to judge these character the way they want to. Whether what Balram did was right or not? Whether what his daughter did was right or not? It all depends upon the audience’s ideological position.
In the end, it is a well made short film by the director, who had made a short film called Akhir before. Hope he keeps making such visual treats.
Prabhat Jha is a writer, translator who writes in English. His poems have been published in Muse India, Odd Magazine and and a short story has been published in Anti-Serious. He also is the co-editor of a Poetry Journal called Collage. Apart from writing poetry he is also a playwright and an actor. He is one of the founders of a literary group called Graffiti, and part of a cultural group called Chorus, which is dedicated towards Gender Issues. He has a book of translation called ‘Between the Two Dams’, published by Authorspress to his credit, where he has translated poems of Taranand Viyogi from Maithili to English.