JioCinemas is hosting a film festival boasting a line-up of a few brilliantly made short films that are currently streaming for viewers’ pleasure. One of the movies in the line-up is Puneet Prakash’s Birha: The Journey Back Home. Written by Hemant Singh, this 25-minute short film encapsulates the yearning to go back to one’s homeland and the fierce need for one’s soul to seek redemption. Starring Rajit Kapoor and Manav Vij, among others, this gem of a short film leaves a lasting impression with its arresting mood, pacing, and composition. On the surface, this may seem to be the simplest story in all of the short films in the line-up, there is little dialogue, and yet the poignant father-son bond depicted arouses emotions buried deep within. Nothing is forced, and the film moves at its own pace and is so certain of its transitions that the flow of the story is never derailed.
Short films have their own charm. In a short amount of time, they have to say a lot, which may even be more than what a full-fledged TV series has to say sometimes. Birha rests on emotions that are so universal that even the slightest indication of that kind of story triggers visceral reactions. Birha means separation or absence, especially that of a loved one. The film features a protagonist who returns to his homeland with a single desire in his heart. Whether or not his desire is fulfilled accounts for only a small portion of the film. It’s the sequences of activities and the brilliant performances that fill most of the frames of this film. There is a twist in the end that makes the film have a simplistic ending that has been used in several other short films, but it doesn’t take away from the performances. Rajit Kapoor is outstanding as the aging father, and Manav Vij fares well in the role of the son. The haunting loneliness we are left with in the end is coupled with a fantastical angle that doesn’t dilute the impact of the story, even though it might seem like a cliche. Birha manages to be true to its theme, finding a rhythm immaculately apt for exploring the subject.
What Happens In The Film?
Just as the sun was about to set, a man named Inder walked into his old village home that he had left years ago to go to Canada. The actual story of the event began when Inder was just on the verge of being called a young adult. He was the only son of a Sikh couple living in a village in Punjab. Inder began his days making tea for his father. This simple start to the day delighted his father. Times were simpler back then. Inder’s dynamic with his father was like that with a strict yet playful elder brother. The mother had to intervene in their shenanigans before they went out of hand. Real trouble first knocked on their door when Inder expressed his desire to go to Canada. Inder’s father was vehemently opposed to this idea. His mother was concerned as well, but the matter was not discussed any further. The decision seemed final, but Inder had some wicked plans.
He had rebuttals for each one of his father’s arguments. From Inder’s point of view, his father just had to take a loan to send him to Canada. He was under the impression that the loan could easily be repaid once he earned money and brought the money back home. But he didn’t comprehend the sentimental attachment they had to him. In the thick of the night, he committed a crime that had such an impact on everyone’s psyche that no one really recovered from it. Inder had decided to go to Canada even if he didn’t have his parents’ blessings. So on that fateful night, he stole his father’s savings and ran away. Now, he had finally returned to that same house he had stolen from, only to find his father in the house, passing his days alone, waiting for death. Inder’s mother had already died, as she couldn’t bear the thought of living without him.
How Does The Film End?
Inder had seen his father after such a long time. What could he even say to him? His father didn’t even recognize him at first. He had changed. There was just guilt in his eyes, as opposed to the innocence his family had seen in him. Inder’s father feigned a front of indifference and asked him to leave immediately. Inder offered to make him tea just like he used to before he left. Inder’s father may have thought that Inder, that scoundrel who stole all the money away, had come for the land and the house now. But it wasn’t the case. Inder’s gut-wrenching sob was proof that he wanted only his father’s forgiveness. The guilt was too great to bear. What was a crime was seen almost as an irredeemable sin by Inder. Yet he had come all this way because only his father could forgive him. He wept and asked to be forgiven. The father’s heart melted, even though there was all the pain behind his eyes of having lost his wife because of Inder’s action. She had wept too, but she too would want Inder to be forgiven now that he had returned. Inder’s father drank the tea, which was a symbol for the father-son bond and, in a way, suggested that he had forgiven Inder. He asked Inder to stay the night.
The following morning, a letter came, which shocked Inder’s father. There was a letter from Canada describing how Inder had met with an accident and died. A Gurudwara in Vancouver had done the final rites and, as a duty, had written the letter to inform his folks back home. This had to be a mistake, Inder’s father thought. He searched through the house looking for Inder, but he was nowhere to be found. It was indeed true. It wasn’t Inder he had talked to, but his ghost. After having been forgiven, the ghost must have found peace and left for the otherworld. Inder’s father stood there in the house alone, too stunned to move.