The #MeToo campaign brought forth the global epidemic of sexual harassment and though society hasn’t completely changed yet but this was an important step in highlighting women’s issues and the way they are treated by their male counterparts. Paakhi A Tyrewala’s short film Kajal is another step in the same direction.
Kajal is the story of a seemingly regular woman who is berated by her husband for the smallest of her actions, faces a lecherous security guard every day and works under a boss who probably never got an etiquette class his entire life. Kajal is a day in her life.
The film opens like a mystery as we see the protagonist stepping out of her office late at night. No matter what city one lives in, the late hours of the night are always scary in the real world and you can sense a looming danger that she might have to face. The background score builds up the tension through her bus journey where she is trying to decipher what to do with the unidentified package she discovered at the bus stop.
The background music keeps you guessing. Her husband is the kind who wouldn’t think twice before hitting her and you instantly know that her submissive behaviour is the only way she believes she can be safe.
The mystery package is then revealed to be a gun. Late at night, when everyone’s asleep she comes into her own. Dressing up in an avatar that makes her feel sexy, she lights up a cigarette and pours herself a glass of wine because this truly, is the only time when she can be herself. The possession of the gun makes her feel invincible and the way she handles it, is almost sexual in nature.
This film doesn’t have many dialogues yet it manages to tell the story through its protagonist’s expressive eyes. Kudos to Salony Luthra for portraying a character that entirely rests on her expressions. Her transformation after the discovery of the gun gets the story to a full circle. The film’s message is crystal clear. It aims at empowering women and not by shooting guns but by making them realise that they always have the power, they only have to find the courage to own it.
The background score of the film deserves special mention here. Keeping in line with the changing mood of the character, it feels a little manipulative at times but works as a whole.
As a short film, Kajal’s message is simple and the director delivers it without any clever tricks.