By Barnali Ray Shukla
Writer-director Barnali Ray Shukla debuted with Kucch Luv Jaisaa in 2011. In two consecutive years, 2013 and 2014 her scripts were long-listed for the SUNDANCE-Mahindra Script Lab, one of which she will be making as a feature film in Bengali, next year. She’s currently traveling with her documentary Liquid Borders, which has been doing terrific rounds across India, Italy and North America.
There is never one word for this feeling but here is something I wish to put my finger on. Intimacy. I tried to look for something more commonplace but here I am. It doesn’t take a love song to tell us about this unabashed connect that most of us feel but very few of us have been there. Intimacy is not about taking off clothes. It is easier to show skin than to bare our fears, vulnerability, compassion and self-respect. That comes closest to being intimate.
My debut film as a writer-director, Kucch Luv Jaisaa set out to just do that. That was the summer of 2011 when the film released in theatres. There were ones who chose to go to the theatres to watch it, over saving up for Salman Khan’s Ready that followed up the next week. In hindsight, many realize that the film deserved a better release and even the marketing vehicle had to connect more intimately to its audience, not slip into the coma of one-size-fits all. More so focused on the aspirational India which lives not so much in the metropolitan cities but in the bigger towns, smaller cities which are looped amidst today’s globalized body with Indian spirit. The milieu is remarkable of our 70-year-old adolescent country whose voice has begun to crack.
Despite our teeming millions we are getting lonely. More often than not finding a connect with a stranger is perhaps more easier than someone we are related to. As they say, relationships are conditional but love is not.
Madhu Saxena (played by Shefali Shah) and Raghav Passport (Rahul Bose) get a taste of that in this film. The story unfurls on Feb 29th and it so happens that both of them Madhu and Raghav have their birthdays on this day. That is all that they have in common.
Raghav is a white-collar criminal and peddles duplicate passports. He wishes to get done with a life that is risqué.
Madhu has tamed herself into domesticity, motherhood and an inherent goodness so central to the recommended staple diet of our societal structure.
On the 29th morning, except a random call from a cake shop and her parents, no one really seems to remember her big day. The world that she has made the centre of her universe, spins with or without her. The first kind of intimacy that we lose is the one we once had with our own self. And so has Madhu. Today she is not even sure what possibly could be better to continue being the concierge service to her home, hearth and loved ones. Or is it better that she unearths the girl-woman she was?
Kucch Luv Jaisaa is what we chose to call this caper of finding out.
She could either sit and sulk. Or go out and get a peek into the life that she has been missing lately. And that is what forms the narrative of the film. The day unravels after her run-in with this oddly endearing stranger Raghav, whom she meets at a coffee shop. The conversation begins when she feigns a search for this lighter which she has forgotten in her car. Smoking is where it begins, bad for our health we are warned and yet she makes her choice. My idiom of finding that lost spark and this time something between a stranger and her.
This is the beginning of a journey that we all will do, albeit not always known to us. About touching lives, with no agenda except to be our own truest self and see what the day holds for us. We encounter the finest when we least plan it. If lucky, we even meet ourselves.
I dislike U-turns. I rarely look back but today seemed to be that day when I revisited so much through my film. A share felt necessary with strangers who are perhaps a ‘hello’ short of being acquaintances, if not friends. Listening is a big, warm hug we can give strangers, in this world fragmenting, one sigh at time.
I fondly remember my tribute to the lesser heard and misunderstood ones, as Raghav tells Madhu in a voice that’s more intimate than the rustle of the sheets:
“samjhaaney waley bahut hai Madam, samajhne wala..koi nahi”
You might like: An Open Letter to Shahrukh Khan, The Fan