‘Unpaused’ Review: A mixed-bag affair that fails to match the magic of ‘Putham Pudhu Kaalai’

A Potpourri of Vestiges Review

By Murtaza Ali Khan

Following its Tamil anthology film Putham Pudhu Kaalai, Amazon Prime Video has come out with his Hindi anthology film Unpaused, also shot during the pandemic and featuring stories about themes of love, fresh beginnings, hope, and chance. Unpaused is an interesting package of five short films that brings together directors like Nikkhil Advani, Tannishtha Chatterjee, Raj & DK, Nitya Mehra, and Avinash Arun. Like all package deals, Unpaused has both pros and cons. But, before we get to the strengths and the weaknesses, let’s first look at the storylines of the various segments.

The first short film titled ‘Glitch’, directed by Raj & DK, stars Gulshan Deviah and Saiyami Kher. The story is set in the near future where pandemics have become a norm. The world at present is dealing with COVID-30 and everything seems to happen in the virtual space. In these times when people fear human contact, a ‘hypo’ man meets a ‘warrior’ girl on a blind date. As soon as the neurotic man learns that the girl is a pandemic warrior stationed at the frontend to deal with the virus attacks, he freaks out and walks out of the date. But both touch each other in ways they can’t comprehend. Will their chance encounter develop into something more meaningful?

The second segment titled ‘Apartment’, directed by Nikkhil Advani, stars Richa Chadha, Sumeet Vyas, and Ishwak Singh. It follows the owner of a successful online news magazine who learns of her husband’s sexual indiscretions at the workplace. While trying to come to terms with it, she loses all her strength and attempts to end her own life. But she stops halfway when a pesky stranger unexpectedly shows up at her door. Will she go back to finishing her ghastly act after he leaves? Or will she succeed in finding the inner strength to face the reality?

‘Rat – A – Tat’, the third short film in the anthology, is directed by Tannishtha Chatterjee. Starring Lillete Dubey and Rinku Rajguru, this segment follows two women, four decades apart—one who chooses to be alone and the other who is alone because of circumstances. While confronting loneliness during the lockdown, their paths cross in the mostly unlikely circumstances. Will they succeed in overcoming the stark generation gap and become friends? Or will their egos continue to evade all the possibilities of hope and new beginnings?

The fourth short film titled ‘Vishaanu’ is directed by Avinash Arun and stars Abhishek Banerjee and Geetika Vidya Ohlyan. It follows a young migrant family which gets thrown out of their rented house during the lockdown after failing to pay the rent. They then decide to illegally sneak into a lavish sample flat that’s situated in the same building in which they were working as construction workers. For how long can they stay there? What will happen once the bubble gets busted?

The final segment, directed by Nitya Mehra, is titled ‘Chaand Mubarak’. It stars Ratna Pathak Shah and Shardul Bharadwaj. It follows an affluent middle-aged single woman who is a little paranoid of contagion and wants to avoid social contact at all costs. But, she is forced to seek help of a young rickshaw driver to get her medicine during the lockdown. The woman’s stubbornness and elitist views are in contrast to the driver’s orthodox views on relationships. Will the two strangers out of their common loneliness form an unlikely friendship? Or will their overwhelming divides get the better of them?

Unpaused can best be looked upon as an interesting storytelling experiment. Anthologies aren’t new to cinematic storytelling but what’s different here is the fact that we are talking about stories filmed during the pandemic and dealing with the themes of new beginnings, such as discovering love or finding hope, amidst the lockdown. This makes it inevitable to compare Unpaused with Putham Pudhu Kaalai. The striking difference between the two anthologies is that of music. Putham Pudhu Kaalai uses diegetic and non-diegetic music to its great advantage. For, it compensates for a lot of other weaknesses. There were all kinds of restrictions imposed during the lockdown and so shooting with a small clue under controlled conditions is bound to take a toll on the quality of storytelling. That’s where the music and the songs came to the rescue and Putham Pudhu Kaalai scored heavily. Unpaused, on the other hand, has little to offer on this front.

While the acting performances are solid all around, the quality of storytelling is mostly inconsistent. ‘Glitch’ has its moments, but the abrupt use of sign language just doesn’t add anything to the story. ‘Apartment’ has a good message at its core but it gets a little preachy in the end. Lillete Dubey and Rinku Rajguru are brilliant in ‘Rat – A – Tat’ but despite the promise it just fails to tug at the heartstrings. ‘Vishaanu’ comes across as the weakest segment of the lot. Its premise is certainly interesting but the story just fails to pick up. Fortunately, Unpaused ends on a strong note thanks to ‘Chaand Mubarak’, which has a well-rounded story that’s made even more special by delectable performances of Ratna Pathak Shah and Shardul Bharadwaj.

A version of this article was first published in The Daily Guardian.

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