Directed by Kartik Singh, short film Black Briefcase stars TV anchor and actor Maniesh Paul. The film is about 16 minutes long and is about a radicalised man (Paul) who plans to place an improvised explosive device (IED) in a crowded Delhi market.
The terrorist is haunted by what his mother once told him – “Son, there are two kinds of people in the world: good and bad. It is up to you to decide what you want to be.” There is minimal dialogue, and whatever there is, it pertains to the plot. Paul’s character does not have a single line in the whole film. In a flashback, the terrorist is instructed as to what he should do by his boss and how Mumbai is already burning and how it is Delhi’s turn to burn now.
Right from the beginning, the film deals with the question as to whether terrorists on their way to murder hundreds or thousands of people get afflicted by self-doubt. Or are they too far gone? Have their poisonous ideologies turned them into something that is human only by appearance? Or there is still a mite of humanity inside them?
This is a moot question, and probably reformed former extremists and psychologists can answer it. The film tells us, yes, even the most hardened terrorists can be assaulted by conscience – if they have something to hold on to. In this case, Maniesh Paul’s character has a nightmare in which his IED has already done the deed and he looks at a mother telling her son the same thing his mother told him. Even as she looks accusingly at the terrorist, screaming that he has chosen the wrong option, he wakes up and rushes back to the market to defuse the bomb. Will he be able to do it?
While this short film has a decent if simplistic message, you can tell it is made on a budget. Blood looks like lipstick smears on people’s faces. There are small pockets of fire to show the place where the explosion took place. Yes, it is unrealistic to expect high-end production values from a short film, but it takes you out of the world that it is set in.