Actor Ketaki Narayan’s directorial debut Budgie is a powerful short film that clinically dissects domestic violence in India and unravels the pent up angst of the oppressed women  

We come across them very often, the pretty ones in bright yellows, greens and blues. Birds with wings that might never know the skies, the budgies. They live among us, some in cages, some within our homes. In the two-minutes long short film Budgie written and directed by actor Ketaki Narayan, she is one such budgie, beaten and bruised, but with wings that yearn to fly. Narayan’s first attempt at screenplay and direction has come out as powerful and hard hitting, surprisingly so for something whipped up in just two days’ time.

Behind the idea

It was while scrolling down her Instagram feed that Narayan came across ‘Anticlock films,’ a production house owned by bollywood director Onir and actor Sanjay Suri. It has been conducting short film competitions and every week a subject was given based on which short film entries of two-minutes length were invited. 

“It was just two days before the final date for entries that I got to know about this competition,” Narayan tells Number13. The subject for the week was ‘she.’ That got her thinking. “I was thinking how we could put the entire womanhood in two minutes. I just wanted to do something which is contradictory to what we all are feeling right now. While we all were feeling stuck, what if this lockdown came about as a relief to someone? That was my thought,” she says. 

Budgie starts with the shot of a woman who is even scared to talk to her husband. But the lockdown has come about as a blessing in disguise to her as her husband is stuck in another city unable to come back home. The respite is brief, she knows. And she has limited options before her, thanks to the restrictions in place. So she decides to make the maximum within the walls of her captivity. In those moments of unexpected freedom, she realises that she knew little about her body or soul.  Moving about like a free spirit, she takes a dip in that sea of emotions where she tries to discover herself. She does not want in sight anything that’s about him, not even the gods to whom he regularly prays. 

The violent halves

Ever since the lockdown has been in place reports of domestic violence against women have been on the rise. Data released by National Legal Services Authority shows that the lockdown has led to a rapid increase in cases of domestic violence.  Narayan dedicates her film to those women and housewives who are stuck with their perpetrators.

“We have certain ideologies about how a housewife or a mother or a daughter should be. We are used to seeing them in certain frames,” she says. “Sometimes it’s so hot that you don’t want to wear anything. But the housewives don’t even have that freedom to decide what to wear and what they don’t want to wear. They are expected to be in a certain way always. In the case of my protagonist,she never realised how beautiful her body is; she wasn’t even seeing herself in a mirror and realising that she existed before that. Before she could get to know her body, it was getting abused by someone who doesn’t like her or respect her.”

So the moment he is away, Narayan’s protagonist lets go of her saree and roams about comfortably in minimal clothes. She moves furniture, reads books and basks in the sun without being conscious about her body or what she is wearing. Her joy of getting to be herself and doing things she likes seems infectious.

Winner of the winners

The competition held by Anticlock films was of six weeks duration. Winners were selected every week and from the weekly winners, final winners were pronounced by the jury that included film critics like Anna M M Vetticad, Bharadwaj Rangan, Mayank Shekhar, Namrata Joshi, Rohit Vats and Shubhra Gupta. Narayan emerged as the best female actor.

The actor who has been a part of several Malayalam and Marathi feature films would now like to try her hand in screenwriting and direction. “We shot this film during the lockdown, following all the rules of social distancing. And I was pretty clear about the visuals I wanted, so I wrote down the scenes frame by frame and that’s what we shot.” The voice overs and music too were put together with the help of friends who recorded it at their apartments and sent it over. “It was a collaborative work in that sense and it worked,” she says.

Budgie‘s music is done by Nihar Shembekar. Neelima Kulkarni, Sandeep Yadav and Omkar Barve gave voice — they sent their audio from remote locations. “I want to dedicate the film to all the house wives and women facing domestic violence and mental abuse. I want to tell them that there is always hope and there always comes a time when you can think for yourself. It doesn’t matter you are quarantined with the wrong people today, are made to feel miserable and your abusers are making you feel  worthless; you will have your moment sooner or later. Just hold on,” says Narayan.   

Narayan is currently working on a couple of films that would resume work after the lockdown. She is also working on a few feature film scripts on which she would like to concentrate more in the coming days. “I would like to delve deep into the conflicts and relations between humans,” she says.

Watch Budgie here


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