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Short Film Review: Abridged (2019) by Gaurav Puri
Short Film Review: Abridged (2019) by Gaurav Puri

Short Film Review: Abridged (2019) by Gaurav Puri

“No admissions in schools without money”

Gaurav is an independent filmmaker, a graduate in Film Direction & Screenplay Writing from the prestigious Satyajit Ray Film & Television Institute, India. His films, fiction, documentary and experimental, have been screened at various national and international film festivals. He has been a producer/member of a film collective, Lightcube, acclaimed as one of the leading resources for research and presentation of image-forms. His interests lie in audio-visual forms that intersect various folk-indigenous and modern-technological rationalities of storytelling. “Abridged” won the Golden Royal Bengal Tiger for Best National Documentary.

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The film begins with the images of a construction site, while a voice from the news talks about the partial collapse of Majerhat Bridge in South Kolkata, and the disaster the event caused. Images of various parts of the city intermingle with each other, some of them somewhat artistic some of them more documentary-like, as the director seems to catch daily life in the area from the very early morning. Newspaper distributing, people sleeping on the street under bridges, trains passing under bridges and passerby all become part of the narrative.

As the film description states, “In recent years, Kolkata has witnessed the collapse of bridges Majerhat being the most recent. Set in the context of rapid urbanization, the film, titled “Abridged” examines the lives of various bridges, both over and under–how lives are organized around the bridge as a public space”. As such, the focus of the movie is on exactly that, describing everyday life in the city, and particularly the part of it that takes place under bridges.

It is impressive to watch people having set up shops under the constructions for example, as a shoe salesman highlights quite eloquently, while a number of them, seem to actually live beneath them. Schoolgirls playing with a dog, a mother combing her children’s hair, a chicken jumping in front of a motorcycle, cars parking are just some of the things that happen under bridges, in a testament on how life can take place anywhere, particularly in such crowded places as Kolkata.

The construction of bridges is also highlighted, through some very intriguing frames and close ups, with Puri and his cinematographer Sukhan Saar evidently being able to find beauty in the most surprising moments, not omitting however, to show that reality is also ugly, as the garbage and the corrosion of the constructions highlights. A man talking about how without money, people cannot even attend school adds a social comment in the narrative as does the aforementioned salesman who talks about how the government wants them to leave, but they have nowhere to go. In that same fashion, the signs on the street that state ‘buy less, built more” appear as rather ironic, also in a testament to the meaningful editing here by Pritam Mandal.

A song heard in the background as the night falls once more, while the bridge builders keep working, a couple of voyeuristic scenes, a child looking at the camera, a man setting up his “bed”, a woman who sheds light on the reasons people end up living under bridges, and a man with his goat herd passing the street, conclude the movie.

Gaurav Puri follows an observational approach, in a documentary though, that is exceptionally shot, with the documentation of reality moving hand to hand with visual beauty. This combination, and the presentation of a life that is very seldom depicted on cinema deems “Abridged” as an exquisite film, a testament to the prowess of all people involved in it.