Living alone in a big city comes with its own set of challenges. In Farhad Dehlvi’s directorial debut Seher Hone Tak, an old lady who lives by herself relies on her daily routine to be her sole companion. “Something about the big city becomes your surrogate family. I wanted to show how a person can become dependant on the seemingly mundane activities of daily life,” says Dehlvi.
The US-based filmmaker premiered the 13-minute film at the Cannes Film festival in the Short Film Corner. The story unfolds in a two-bedroom high-rise Mumbai apartment and looks at the routine of an old lady whose day passes by in activities such as answering the door for the vegetable seller, dhobi, garbage man and a phone conversation with her son in the afternoon. She lives alone and has nothing to look forward to during the day. But when there is a power cut in the apartment, her routine gets disrupted and she becomes visibly distraught and restless. As the door bell stops working, none of the regular visitors come to the apartment anymore. “We are so tied to our routine that when there is a lag in it, we get disturbed,” says Dehlvi, 27, who cast his grandmother Sakina Mehta for the part of the old lady.
With no dialogues — except for the brief conversations while answering the door and speaking over the phone — Dehlvi’s film focuses on lights, ambient sounds and wide angle frames. A graduate of cinematography from the American Film Institute in Los Angeles, Dehlvi was inspired by the “Dogme 95” movement of Danish filmmaker Lars von Trier, which looks at stripping a scene of all kinds of special effects and focusing on the traditional form of acting, bereft of technology. “Since I have worked briefly as a cinematographer I have seen how a scene is developed. And one gets the feeling that everything in filmmaking works like a machine. I wanted to strip down that process of filmmaking. So camera work and sound design became important elements in my film,” adds Dehlvi, who has worked as a camera assistant in Vishal Bhardwaj’s Kaminey and Ang Lee’s Life of Pi and briefly on The Dark Knight Rises. He is the cinematographer for another short film, The Wild, the Child & the Miracle, which will be screened at Cannes in the same section.
Born and brought up in Delhi, the filmmaker comes from a family of creative people. His mother is well-known costume designer Himani Dehlvi while his father worked as a producer for private television networks. “My family has helped me to create images and to see the world differently. They always said that anything you create should be emotionally truthful,” he says.