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Award-winning stop motion animation short film Tokri by Suresh Eriyat and Studio Eeksauraus, is a commentary on class, as well as a heartwarming tale about love and family.
All of us have been approached, as our vehicle stops at traffic signals, by children who try to sell us everything from magazines to toys. We shoo them away, we grumble, we even comment on the poverty and the sad state of a system that supports child labour.
Something similar happened to Suresh Eriyat. Travelling through Mumbai streets in his car, he was approached by a young girl selling baskets, and he, as usual, told her to go away. This time however, as he drove away from her, he was struck by guilt.
“What if she was in a precarious situation where she had to sell baskets to bring peace to her home? What if she needed some help from Me? How insensitive of me?” he thought. This guilt became the basis for Tokri – a 14 minute stop motion animation short film that took him 8 years to make!
The story opens on the routine life of a family that lives on a random Mumbai footpath. Poor, but with a sense of dignity. Parents who both work, and who love their daughter who goes to school.
One night, the daughter notices her father stealthily opening an old tin trunk, and fondly holding some of the items within. Her curiosity is piqued, and the next morning, after her parents both leave for work, she investigates. She finds a picture of her father, receiving an award from Dr Abdul Kalam, the former President of India, and an antique watch. As she is admiring the watch, a sudden noise starts her, and she drops it, breaking it.
She puts the broken watch back, but is consumed by guilt, which only grows as she realizes how badly the loss of the watch has affected her father, and the atmosphere of their home. She decides to get the watch repaired by making and selling some tokris (baskets).
Will she be successful? Will she be able to make her father happy again? These are the questions that the short film seeks to answer.
One cannot talk about Tokri without noting its technical brilliance.
From the way the chaos of Mumbai streets has been re-created, to how real the set and the characters look, everything is absolutely perfect. Even the pattern of the grimy footpath tiles, the stray animals etc. have been painstakingly recreated without cutting any corners, and the facial expressions of the characters, are so nuanced, that I forgot these are clay dolls, and not people! One must also mention the sound design and the music, without which the film would truly be incomplete.
I appreciate that the short film neither plays up the ‘noble’ poor stereotype, nor does it reduce their humanity. It sidesteps the poverty porn, and gives the characters a quiet dignity, and shows how they are just trying to make a life for themselves. The difference is that they receive scorn and rejection from those around them, even as they try to do so.
In this sense, the film is a commentary on class differences in India. It presents the vulnerability and the humanity of the poor, in a sensitive manner.
Just as important though, is the theme of love and family that is central to the plot. The father-daughter relationship is endearing, real and relatable. I love that it did not succumb to the usual stereotype of showing the man as being an abusive drunkard, instead presenting him as a loving father, and a man who has hopes and dreams, and possibly, regrets.
There is a moment in the film, where the viewer is afraid that the girl is in danger, and yet, just a few moments later, we wish that things had happened exactly the way they did. Even as we experience that moment of sadness, the film takes us around one more emotional bend, leaving us with a smile on our face.
For its simple storyline, the film has great emotional heft and range.
No wonder then, that the movie has won 23 festival awards and 56 official selections!
For your dose of wholesome goodness today, watch Tokri. You will not regret it.
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