I walked into watching ‘Vaidya’, a film by QKnit, (directed by Sumit Pawar and Harsh Agrawal, with screenplay by Harsh) with my fair share of skepticism. I’d of course seen the trailer prior to watching the film, and found it intriguing and tightly edited, but sometimes films with good trailers can go either way (case in point, ‘Thor: The Dark World’, ‘Battle: Los Angeles’ etc.). The film opens with a shot of Kabir (as you might have seen in the trailer, so no spoilers here!) looking into the infinite sea. He’s your regular corporate guy on a solo trip to Goa (relatable much for a lot of us millennials) and ends up meeting a boy named Vaidya. Vaidya is where the film starts getting interesting!
Vaidya is loosely inspired from the mythical character with the same name, son of the God of Sea and is a rather obscure or little known character in the holy texts of Hinduism. This is where the screenplay starts picking up. In the film, there’s very little backstory to Vaidya, the character doesn’t let the viewer (or even Kabir for that matter) delve too much into his personal story. He’s a free soul, is quite old-school (watch the film to know why :)), in stark contrast to Kabir, and yet the two characters click, and begin to spend time with each other. The film then delves into the complexities that creep up when two strangers meet, fall in love, and try maneuvering their way in a real world.
The cinematography (by DOP: Shivam Borkar & Varun Katare) is beautiful, especially the shots taken in Goa. You don’t get to experience the tourist clad Goa, but a Goa in its truest essence- the gorgeous shacks, the clean beaches, a montage of the tender moments between Kabir and Vaidya captured with the Arabian Sea in the backdrop. The clean transitions between shots is slick and engaging (credits to Editors Rahul Tiwari & Mohosin Shaikh). Ronit Agarwal as Vaidya is relatable and so is Kabir (played by Puneet Mishra). Let’s also not forget that the film was made during the pandemic, so kudos to the team responsible for casting these wonderful actors.
The film is authentic, also because the actors play it with such simplicity. However, the characters are not simple black and whites, they are real complex characters like you and me, with bursts of emotions in moments. They’re certainly not sorted in their heads, Kabir is ambitious and practical, while Vaidya is more easy-going but they’re also both romantics at heart and you get to see the actors play the lows and the highs in their respective characters with sincerity and honesty! The music by Himanshu Dahiya is not overpowering, but what stays with you is the song “Woh kya batayenge raah humko…”, a track that appears twice in the film and is rightly placed.
My favorite moment in the film is when Kabir shares with Vaidya what brings him to Goa, “Beech beech mein jeene ke bahane dhundte rehta hoon (I keep looking for reasons to live)”, to which Vaidya asks, “Toh mila kya? Bahana? (Did you find it? The reason to live?)” and their hands swiftly come together. The subtle moments work. There’s no moment in the film really where they out and about proclaim their love for each other, but you see it in their eyes, the longing, the angst, the fondness and in the end the uncertainty and frustration (again, watch the film to know why!). The film stays true to its namesake, mysterious yet gripping for most parts. However, the moments where Kabir moves back to Gurgaon, and has a conversation with his friends loses momentum and could’ve been done with a tighter screenplay. It picks up again well towards the end of the film.
There’s also a larger conversation that comes to play when films portraying queer Indian lives are made by filmmakers who also happen to be queer. There’s authenticity because it’s us telling our stories, but even in 2020 there is a paucity of representation from the community. Faraz made ‘Sheer Qorma’ bringing in non-binary representation to mainstream filmmaking, and we need more films, shorts and TV series that showcase the lives of queer, femme, trans, intersex and non-binary lives. Of course this is not to take away from how well Vaidya has been woven together, but it is to leave the readers with some food for thought and it is relevant for films like Vaidya to kickstart these conversations.
Vaidya is a gripping tale of two men in love, real and complex and clearly brought together with sincerity by the team, and deserves your love and time.
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