‘Vaidya’ is an independent queer short film which follows the story of Kabir and Vaidya, who meet at a remote beach in Goa. Kabir is a Gurgaon boy on a solo trip in Goa while Vaidya has grown up around the ocean. Over the course of Kabir’s short stay, both get a chance to know each other and consequently grow close. The twenty minute short film is written and produced by Harsh Agrawal and directed by Sumit Pawar.
Kabir (Puneet Kumar Mishra) is escaping his nine-to-five corporate job in Goa. The film opens with an exquisite shot of Kabir relishing the vast ocean. The sun shines upon him as he is frolicking freely with the waves. Pawar’s first silent short film ‘Khwaaish’ touches upon similar elements of the ocean. “It was just a coincidence that this movie (written by Harsh Agrawal) is also based on love and elements of the sea,” says Pawar.
Kabir and Vaidya (Ronit Agrawal) meet because Kabir loses his wallet swimming through the tides and Vaidya finds it. However, it is astonishing that the wallet is completely dry. From this moment on, an enigma surrounds Vaidya’s character. When Kabir asks him questions about his eccentric habits — not using the phone, not going far from the ocean, he deflects the conversation. Vaidya wears a fish shaped locket and has a band of fishes tattooed on his arms, giving viewers a glimpse of his oceanic roots.
Kabir spends his week-long vacation in Vaidya’s company. The film captures endearing moments between them: stolen glances, hand-holding, long conversations, swimming, reading and sipping coffee together. Set outside the restraints of society on a remote beach in Goa, the film creates a utopia of queer love, and at the same time reminds us that this utopia only exists outside society.
“People live two different lives; when he (Kabir) is in Gurgaon working in an MNC versus when he is in Goa, his life is quite different. He has come here out of his regular schedule. This is equivalent to the life experiences many (queer) people have. We wanted to make a film which is relatable, it can be fictional but at least one person should connect to that life,” Pawar shared with Gaysi. By creating this short-lived utopia, the film not only gives viewers hope, but also prompts us to look at the dual realities that closeted queer people live with.
On the poster of the film we see Kabir and Vaidya against the blues of the sky and the ocean. Vaidya’s head rests on Kabir’s shoulder as he looks content. Kabir’s back is against us; he seems to be relaxed, deep in some contemplative thought. In another poster the two are seen in the midst of some flirtatious conversation against the same blue. These posters invite the viewers into their playful and joyous relationship.
Short film as a medium gives an opportunity to young filmmakers to experiment with novel themes and techniques. However, lack of budget for feature films is one of the great reasons behind the rise in queer short films. Pawar said, “There is a very limited amount of budgets that Queer Cinema gets. That is what happened with our films as well. We could do the previous and this film because my friend had the budget. If there is a budget and a good script, I would love to go for a two-three hour film. Budget also gives liberty to the writer and director.”
The film ends with a cover of the ghazal ‘Mein Aap Apni Talash Mein Hu’ by Rajendra and Nina Mehta. The song drives the feeling of not having direction and an absolute surrender that exists in love, fitting perfectly with the situation of these two characters.
“The actor who plays Kabir (Puneet Kumar Mishra) came up with the idea for the song. We wanted something simple because of the limited budget. He sang it for us during the time of the shoot and later when we were dubbing the film it came out really nice. That’s why we choose the song for closing credits.”
This is not a film that gives you precise conclusions; on the contrary it leaves room for ambiguity. The lack of a definitive answer keeps the audience gripped throughout the film. “A lot of people were also saying that it is a very sad ending, but that depends on different opinions of different people,” Pawar told Gaysi. Watching this film felt like having a warm-fuzzy dream that ends too soon, leaving you with a bittersweet feeling.