Under the compelling forces of misfortune, sometimes we refuse to surrender ourselves to pessimism and adapt to the altered circumstances. The character of Sushi, played by Shefali Shah, in the short film Happy Birthday Mummy Ji (2021), exactly does the same. She turns a somewhat bitter and dispirited situation into a wholesome experience that liberates her soul for the time being. This short film is her debut as a writer and director.
The fourteen-minute long short film begins with the vivacious Sushi decorating her posh house to celebrate the seventy-fifth birthday of her mother-in-law. She is alone in her spacious abode and impeccably managing all the arrangements. From calling Bahadur to reach the residence for making the lunch to informing the caterer to cook all the cuisine for the next day’s party in Jain preparation. But her meticulous planning is baulked when she receives a call from her husband informing her that the curfew, due to the pandemic, has been extended. What happens next is a short tale of how an individual confined within the chores of domesticity discovers a new realm of possibilities and freedom.
Comprises only one character and Shefali Chaya brings an effortless and charming naturalness to the character of Suchi. The scene where her hand does not stop folding a napkin into a fan even after receiving the sad news confirms her sensitivity as an actress. The way she battles her emotion through her conversations, with various characters, over the phone is performed with a certain level of maturity and restraint. Eeshit Narain’s camera has extravagantly captured the decor of the house in all its grandeur. Antara Lahiri’s edit has rendered seamlessness to the structure. The background score by Prasad S. also helps in evoking the emotions.
But despite being endowed with acting and technical finesses, the short film lacked the required sophistication to be categorized as a thought-provoking endeavour. The character of Sushi should have been layered with complexities and the camera should have been used as a tool to probe into her psychological depth. As the end credits appear, the short film becomes a light-hearted exercise exploring the mind of a homemaker whose efforts are not been acknowledged.
By and large Happy Birthday Mummy Ji incorporates the pandemic-related restrictions within the narrative quite well. But at the same time maintains a creative distancing from venturing into the intricacies of the theme. As a debut project, it is a decent attempt.
The film is available on the YouTube channel of LargeShortFilms.