Trivedi Ji, directed by Rajesh Tailang and written by Vartika Tiwari and Tailang, tells the story of a woman stuck in her apartment during the COVID-19 pandemic and trying to survive on depleting food supplies and conversations with her aloe vera plant. Despite being shot on a phone and with limited resources, the short film boasts of some great cinematography and editing. And Tiwari’s committed performance sells the anxiety, confusion, and depression that we have all faced during this neverending lockdown.
I have seen a bunch of films that have been shot during the COVID-19 lockdown. I think it started with Home Stories and then there was Putham Pudhu Kaalai, Unpaused, Death to 2020, and Yearly Departed. The last two names have big production houses behind them and yet one of them sucks, a lot. Unpaused is definitely the best. And Putham Pudhu Kaalai and Home Stories are just sub-par. Now, I was sure that I was done with these pandemic themed films and wanted some escapism. But then I was reminded of a conversation with Nikkhil Advani where he said that instead of escaping, we should aptly capture this period so that we don’t forget about it and make the same mistakes in the future. So, when Rajesh Tailang’s Trivedi Ji came along, I watched it to see how well it has done the same.
The short film is edited and directed by Rajesh Tailang. It is written by Tailang and Vartika Tiwari. The music is by Joell Mukherji and Chinmayi Tripathi. The song Gujariya is written and sung by Chinmayi and the song Kal Chaudvin ki Raat thi is written by Ibn-e-Insha and sung by Joell. The cinematography is by Vartika and it features her as well, along with Romie the dog. The mixing and mastering are by Arun Verma, and foley by Rishav Sinha. The story starts off with a woman who is stuck in her apartment due to the COVID-19 lockdown, making food, and giving it to the crows. Days go by pretty lightly until tragedy strikes in her colony and that triggers her fears and anxiety. Abb yahi dekhna hai ki who’s going to survive? The woman or the titular aloe vera plant that she has befriended.
Two of the most noticeable things about Trivedi Ji are the cinematography and editing. There are some immaculate framing and lighting during the scenes where isolation and loneliness have to be depicted without saying a single word. And there’s a sequence of events where the woman goes about her day and then comes to a screeching halt when she realises that she’s about to put her clothes into the refrigerator. It’s the kind of quick cutting that I like. The sound editing and design are actually good considering that it was shot and recorded on a phone. It’s not top-notch stuff but it gives that familiar feel of shooting yourself on your phone. It connects on a very basic emotional level. Also, I think it works as a documentary because some of the stuff that are happening outside the room are actually happening and that gives it a visceral and scary feel.
From a story point of view, Trivedi Ji is kind of mundane. The character itself has no depth. So, it might not feel relatable at times. But Vartika’s performance will certainly keep you interested. Given how she’s so good with monologues, I think she should have been given a lot more to talk about or react to just like Gulshan Devaiah does in his segment in Unpaused. It’s more engaging and a great way to utilise the actor to their fullest potential. Her arc is very educational though. I have always thought that the middle class is neither very privileged nor is it entirely in the shit. So, they neither appreciate what they have and nor do they try to rise above their problems. And Tailang captures this dilemma very well as she goes from being fickle with her food to contemplating eating a rat and then sacrificing Trivedi ji.
Advertently or inadvertently, Trivedi Ji is a reminder that these tough times are here to stay because at the time of writing this review, COVID-20, the next version of the coronavirus, has already entered India. However, as usual, we are busy with communalism and political rallies and not focusing on the most important thing, i.e., stopping the spread of this virus. The short film is a plea that we should keep our privileges on the side and do everything in our power to brave this storm that’s probably going to lash on humanity’s doorstep for the foreseeable future. In addition to all that, I knew that Rajesh Tailang is a tremendously talented actor. But I was surprised to see his editing skills and I think he should do more of that while giving us memorable performances.
Cover artwork by Bhavya Poonia/Mashable India