This film is haunting but I don’t think it is for everyone. Not everyone will understand the beauty and the story that is told frame-by-frame. While for some people, films are for entertainment, for others, it’s an art.
Shoebox is clearly born out of passion and love for storytelling and filmmaking and only people who are in awe of this art will love this film.
This is one of those films that tells you many stories. Which story you see in it is completely your choice. On the whole, Shoebox is about loneliness and life, holding on and moving on, empathy and apathy, and honestly, a lot more.
Shoebox Film – The Story
Shoebox revolves around Mampu who lives in Pune and has come back home to be with her ailing father. Her father is emotionally invested in a theatre that he owns. Ever since Mampu was a child, he has been shown giving time only to his work, spending hours in the theatre even if that means missing family functions or not giving enough time to the family. His wife’s sudden death and the pain of not being able to maintain the theatre makes him go into his shell. His frustration not just starts affecting his own health but also starts bothering people around him. His addiction to smoking frequently lands him in the hospital. Where on one hand, there he is, totally invested in a property that has stopped giving any returns; on the other hand, there is his daughter who silently watches her father and ‘time’ slip away.
Mampu, who as a child, was brave and rebellious, now simply observes whatever’s happening around her. The child who actively participated in life is now just a spectator as being brave and courageous landed her in a boarding school, away from her father, the only person she could call her own. Not just from her father, her outburst while speaking to her uncle tells us what all she lost and what all she longed for all these years that changed her entirely, inside out. The haunting silence that has been used as a background score or in certain frames screams out ‘loneliness’ loud and clear. So many of us carry the baggage of what could not be with us for the longest time possible. With heaviness in our heart, we let go of things that we want to fight for and keep fighting for things that we no longer want. That is where the chaos begins. And the storms that we carry within, they silence us forever. Amrita Bagchi, as Mampu, has portrayed all of these complications of the character very well.
As the story moves forward, we see Mampu trying to convince her father to move to Pune with her while he is busy protecting his old theatre from a builder, backed by a politician, who wants the land. There comes a fortunate day in Mampu’s life where her father finally agrees to let go of what is already dead and move to Pune with her. Only to be found dead in his room later.
What happens next will leave you speechless. As the movie ends, Mampu might feel a little lighter as she lets go of what she couldn’t change, but not without transferring that heaviness from her heart to yours.
When a girl like Mampu, who taught her childhood friend to stand up for himself and fight back, gives up the most important battle of her life, it breaks your heart. The good part is that the friend learns to fight back, in whatever capacity it is.
If you understand and observe this whole emotional transformation of a human being and his/her personality that comes from the battles that an individual fights along, that too within, you will love the film. But if you go for it for entertainment, then Shoebox is not for you. It is thought-provoking and soul-stirring. More than a movie, it’s a novel that you are watching on your screen.
I cannot end this review without telling you why I mentioned ‘frames’ again and again. I will just talk about one scene here – for the rest, I suggest you go and watch the film on the Mumbai Film festival website. The good news is that it’s absolutely FREE.
So yes, coming back to the frame – to tell you about how technology killed these old theatres, a guy is shown sitting right near the theatre’s ticket window watching something on his smartphone. The ticket window is closed. The guy clearly doesn’t come from a well-to-do family but can afford a device that delivers entertainment free of cost, round the clock.
And this is about a scene, not the frame! There is a scene where Mampu and her uncle are discussing the theatre with a lawyer. I wonder if that actor is truly a lawyer and not an actor. It actually looked like there was a discussion happening between a lawyer and his client and someone has just recorded the entire conversation. It was that smooth and real. Not over-dramatised or over-hyped for sympathy and shock. That’s the beauty of Shoebox.