Bakul Matiyani uses his protagonist, Ali, to bring attention to Moebius Syndrome, a birth defect that results in facial paralysis and hinders the ability to make facial expressions. Despite experiencing symptoms, Ali’s condition remains undiagnosed.
The “Smile Please” review is included in the Submit Your Film Initiative.
In addition, Ali’s family is preparing to relocate from their small town to Mumbai. He is feeling nervous and concerned, but it seems that no one else is aware of this. The photographers attempting to capture his smile for his passport photo are just the start, followed by his distant father and teasing sister. While his mother is more understanding, his best friend Rajan is the only one who truly understands him. Eventually, Ali opens up to Rajan, even if it is just through a phone call.
Matiyani directs a short film that runs for 20 minutes, exploring the effects of undiagnosed diseases on people’s lives, especially children. The film depicts the consequences of Ali’s lack of response to any form of stimulation. However, amidst this struggle, Matiyani also highlights the healing power of friendship through Ali’s relationship with Rajan. Through their bond, Ali is able to open up about his emotions and even ask his father for help for the first time. Interestingly, the fact that their communication takes place through a phone could be seen as a nod to the value of this type of connection, in contrast to the usual portrayal of smartphones in movies.
Despite the dramatic tone, the short film ends on a positive note, thanks to the director’s light-hearted approach to the subject matter. He skillfully avoids the pitfall of melodrama, leaving the audience feeling optimistic.
Also of note here is the great cinematography of Neha Parti Matiyani, who captures the various settings with realism and artistry, also helped by the excellent job done in the coloring. Matiyani’s own editing results in a relative fast pace that adds to the entertainment the movie offers. Lastly, Rishabh Karmakar as Ali gives a memorable performance, managing to be quite eloquent in his laconic acting, while Alok Chaturvedi as his father is quite convincing in the way he portrays his distance from his son.
Despite the lack of obvious symptoms, “Smile Please” is a poignant and enjoyable movie that sheds light on the challenges children face, particularly when it comes to communication with their parents.