Rakhee Sandilya could well be the cinematic keeper and inheritor of Basu Bhattacharya’s legacy, specifically when it comes to his marriage trilogy— Anubhav, Aavishkar and Grihapravesh. Much like Bhattacharya, the debutante takes an extremely intimate, acute and up close and personal look at the innards of a young, urban Indian marriage. However, unlike Bhattacharya’s tales of ugly discord, Sandilya’s is bitter-sweet look—the beauty comes with warts and all.
Ribbon is about seemingly simple, everyday matters—how to balance the professional challenges with the familial concerns, how to tackle an unplanned pregnancy, how to make space in your life for a child, how to secure financial stability. On paper it may seem like a recipe for disaster—how could such mundane things be made to light up the big screen? Despite an evident lack of flourishes and drama; a straight, linear narrative; no major ups and downs, nor sideways swings and an unadorned style Ribbon manages to engage. Sandilya makes one realise that there could be a film lurking in each of our ordinary, insipid lives—even in something as banal as the hiring and firing of a maid.
- Director: Rakhee Sandilya
- Cast: Kalki Koechlin, Sumeet Vyas
- Storyline: A slice of a Mumbai couple’s life as they try to balance the professional challenges with familial concerns
- Run time: 1 hour 46 minutes
There’s more: the fly-on-the-wall use of the camera. Kalki Koechlin and Sumeet Vyas are fabulously natural under its persistent, fixed stare. It is indeed most difficult to come up with performances that feel unprocessed. And, it’s not the two alone, even some players on the side—from the eccentric Delhi-loving father to the reckless maid to the thoughtful, gentle paediatrician—seem to have just stepped from life on to the screen.
The filmmaker becomes the viewer’s ally in providing an unwavering, peeping-hole view of the marriage through the on-the-move camera. However, her gaze and ours is not that of voyeurism but of empathy. The overwhelming feeling is that what we see on screen could happen to any one of us. The office situation, the gender bias does play out too broad and heavy-handed in its representation. But Sandilya makes up for the lack of subtlety there by displaying a rare compassion in tackling another sensitive issue later. The film jolts you but the shock is not in some unbound display of blood and gore. It makes you face up to the normalcy with which crimes are committed in our society and the ease with which criminals get away. The most heart-breaking is the innocence of a victim in not being able to comprehend the enormity of the offence.
It’s a slice of life cinema which may befuddle because, to borrow a phrase from Waiting for Godot, “nothing happens, nobody comes, nobody goes”. And even when things do happen, they crop up suddenly and unobtrusively; as they do in life. But that’s exactly what makes Ribbon interesting. Sandilya even wraps it all up with a lovely touch of continuity than a neat closure. Our lives, after all, are in perennial motion.