While we discuss toxic masculinity in public, we often forget that it all starts from home. Vidya Balan-starrer short film, Natkhat, focuses predominantly on this aspect. Today, it is in the race for Oscars 2021 - Best Short Film (Live Action) category.
Directed by Shaan Vyas, this 33 minute long short film communicates the message of gender violence, patriarchal and misogynistic society through Sonu and his mom played by Sanika Patel and Vidya respectively.
Vidya, who is also the co-producer of the movie, portrays the character of a woman who bears the brunt of patriarchy at home. A nameless ghunghat-clad woman of the household, her character resonates with many women in the semi-rural and rural houses.
Her son Sonu (around seven years of age), on the other hand, is becoming a product of the patriarchal and misogynistic environment. The movie starts with his school where he overhears a group of his seniors planning to ‘pick up’ a girl and take her to the nearby forest. One of them is heard telling - “this time, everybody will get a chance”.
While it's disturbing enough, the scene shows the ground reality of how the seeds of violence and male chauvinism is implanted in the minds of young boys.
The movie shows Sonu taking the discussion further at the dinner table alongside his family.
Knowing that her son is falling prey to what she has witnessed throughout her life, she decides to discuss her physical and emotional scars with her son. She calls him, "Natkhat lala," (which translates into naughty boy).
The bond that the two characters share is unmatched. One can see an adorable mother- son relationship, and a sense of warmth between them. It reminds us of shades of Vidya’s portrayal of mothers in her earlier movies such as Kahaani-2 or Shakuntala Devi.
The way the son embraces when he understands that his mother is the victim of the same patriarchy is so well enacted by Sanika.
Throughout the movie, Shaan Vyas has managed to stay true to the theme of gender inequality. Moments like Sonu’s teacher showing partiality towards the boys in the class, and the hero-worshipping of naked macho men by younger boys, depicts the small seeds of patriarchy in everyday life of the people.
Natkhat, a crisp short movie underlines the fact that change begins at home. However, one will be curious to know what the little Sonu will make out of mother’s tales, and how he will bring the change in his future actions.
(Edited by Anju Narayanan)