“Unpaused” is an unique collection of five totally discrete shorts, completely unconnected with each other—apart from one common song (“Ummeed Hai”) and Amazon, even their producers are different! The total length is just under two hours, and the use of English as a language is quite common. The theme is of the ramifications of Covid, if not directly then indirectly, and that’s the main link between the films, signifying that life has not paused. All the films are set after the pandemic and lockdown began, and they explore diverse sets of human beings in varied circumstances. Thankfully, most have positive endings.
That said, it is a curate’s egg of a 5-film anthology and each segment thus needs separate evaluation.
“Glitch” (Directors Raj & DK)
Something about this weird and aberrational short reminds us of Raj-DK’s maiden film “99.” The characters seem slightly off and there is virtually little by way of an interesting story, and whatever there is has been told in bizarre manner. The uncrowned high-priest of such roles, Gulshan Devaiah, plays a hypochondriac, and along with Saiyami Kher, an actress doomed to junk projects like “Mirziya” and “Choked” stars in a trivial love story.
“The Apartment” (Nikkhil Advani)
Arguably the best of the lot for its simplicity, and Advani’s finest directorial since “D-Day,” the story is of a depressed woman (Richa Chadha) on the verge of committing suicide due to a callous and shameless husband. There is a knock on her door and it’s a new neighbor who asks for just a drink of water. What happens next is the heartwarming part, especially the sequence with the watchman below. The short so written by Devika Bhagat and Ishita Moitra: this is the duo that wrote “Four More Shots Please 2.” Chadha is good but Ishwak Singh as the neighbor makes a bigger mark.
“Rat-A-Tat” (Director: Tannishtha Chatterjee)
An unlikely friendship springs up between a crabby widow and a wannabe production designer in the building in which they live, all because of a rat. As they discover each other’s nature and past, they do each other a world of good in an isolated world. Lillette Dubey and Rinku Rajguru are excellent, and the correction of Rajguru’s Hindi by Dubey and her sudden defiance are among the highlights.
“Vishaanu” (Director: Avinash Arun)
The lead performers Abhishek Banerjee and Geetika Vidya Ohlyan as poor migrant laborers are phenomenal, the initial sequences are riveting and Ohlyan is superlative, especially in the way she imitates the well-to-do and then asks for extra boxes of food from the do-gooders on the rounds. However, like many such pretentious filmmakers, there is a pretentious, sitting-on-the-fence end.
“Chand Mubarak” (Directed by: Nitya Mehra)
A good subject, seemingly treated with hurry, or simply incompetently with scant attention to detail and logic. An old, lonely woman (Ratna Pathak Shah) befriends a rickshawallah (Shardul Bharadwaj) who lives away from his family and only talks to them on phone, cheerfully promising them to be there on the next Eid (Chand Mubarak). The lady and he exchange arguments on living alone and missing the family that will always be there. In the end, the woman gifts him a cell-phone to communicate audio-visually with his family until he meets them.
In her misplaced enthusiasm, Mehra forgets that a smartphone needs ANOTHER smartphone to communicate visually! Also within a single sequence, the meter reading of the rickshaw fare goes flip-flop as Rs. 44, Rs. 32 and then Rs. 46! How??!! Oh, yes, it was Mehra who had directed a catastrophe in time travel named “Baar Baar Dekho,” right?
Overall, the anthology is passable. Life, love, loneliness, isolation, friendship, compassion, cheer—the show lists these and more, as experienced by human beings in recent times.
Rate: *** (Just About)
Produced by: Monisha Advani, Madhu Bhojwani, Krishna D.K., Raj Nidimoru, Baisakhi Nair, Sanjeevkumar Nair, Ishita Pritish Nandy, Pritish Nandy & Rangita Pritish Nandy
Directed by: Raj & DK, Nitya Mehra, Nikkhil Advani, Tannishtha Chaterjee & Avinash Arun
Written by: Devika Bhagat, Ishita Moitra, Tarun Dudeja, Nitya Mehra,
Reshu Nath, Vidur Nauriyal, Sanyuktha Chawla Shaikh & Shubham
Music: Naren Chandavarkar, Tanishk Bagchi, Payal Dev, Fiddlecraft, Gaurav Kadu, Parth Parekh, Ashutosh Phatak, Shishir Samant & Benedict Taylor
Starring: Saiyami Kher, Gulshan Devaiah, Richa Chadha, Ishwak Singh, Sumiy Vyas, Lillette Dubey, Abhishek Banerjee, Geetika Vidya Ohlyan, Ratna Pathak Shah, Shardul Bharadwaj & others