Directed by Mayank Pushpam Singh | Reviewed by Sabarno Sinha
One of the most difficult genres, in my opinion, is the mockumentary. A successful mockumentary needs to have a very tight plot, dramatic character progression and unique cinematography. It cannot rely on spectacle at all but has to entirely rely on a very well made script. It is with great admiration that I write this review of the short film titled Aamras as I believe that it has been successful on all these accounts. The heart of a mockumentary lies in dramatic irony which refers to the situation created when the audience knows something that the characters on screen or stage are unaware of. In classical drama, this technique alone gave rise to the peak of tragedies and comedies. Aamras has employed this so ingeniously in its script that it must be lauded. From the very beginning, contrasts, ironies and antitheses rule the screen: Mrs. Sharada claiming to do yoga to be broad-minded and immediately after, gossiping about her future daughter-in-law (Nia) who believes in LGBT rights, protests against the government and champions feminism. In another sequence, Aman, her son, claims to know his mother inside out and thinks that she is a “simple soul” who supports Nia’s decision to be vegan. Furthermore, he believes that his mother will stand by him no matter the situation. Both of these ideas are negated in the following scenes when we see Mrs. Sharada complaining about how the monthly expenses have gone up since Nia turned vegan. However, she affirms Aman’s other idea by saying that she will always support her son’s decision. This too is proven wrong in the final scene when he holds his mother’s yoga instructor, Sanket’s hand, and claims to be gay. The gradual building up of tension in the film and the balloon that was being inflated about Mrs. Sharada’s good character deflates in the last few moments which is given a comic twist.
There are three other things that I wish to mention. Firstly, the uniqueness of the mockumentary lies in the interaction between the characters and the camera-operator. Here, this interaction is between PJ and the family members is done in such a manner that it reveals much about what is acted and what is real. Mrs. Sharada emphasizes on being natural in front of camera but by and by, we realize that she is the most pretentious as it is she who wishes to impress PJ’s friends and relatives in the USA. In the end, she cannot even chastise or criticize her son properly and has to wear a fake smile as she is constantly pandering to the audience of a different country. One could take this as a metaphor for our current film industry, in fact! The second point is linked to the first one: Roshni. The character of the disenchanted house-help who has seen the quirks of the family is not a new one but her interaction, side-glances, eye rolls and gestures which are caught by the camera are not just hilarious but help to further one’s understanding of the real character of the family. When Roshni reveals that Nia treats her better than her own husband does, we understand who has the higher moral ground in between the aunty and the activist. Lastly, symbols and insinuations have been very well thought of and not used in a gimmicky manner as we often see in film. Aman being an aspiring actor and a very bad one at that, reciting lines, pretending in front of camera (as in life) goes on to support the idea that he has been doing nothing but lying to himself all these years. The fact that he feels more relaxed when he watches a strong man massage his wife than when having sex with her insinuates his sexuality but comes full circle in the end.
At the very beginning, the film declares that it wishes to show and not tell, which is a thumb rule of good storytelling and I have observed with great pleasure that Aamras has been able to fulfil that. In the little space of 20 minutes (approx.), it has shown us more of social values, faux pas and family problems with great than many renowned films in the Indian mainstream industry.
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.