There’s much talk about the language of love — the beauty, the poesy, the intricacy and the eloquence. But what if the real romance rested between the lines, in pages and moments that pass you by? And what if you learned one day that you could read it all? Soak in the joy, taste the eloquence, breathe in the intricacies and feel the poesy reverberating in the air. But what if you could only sense, only feel and yet do nothing else?
A first-of-its-kind silent LGBTQ film in India, Sisak makes waves before the visuals of this short hit the shore. Set in the fast-paced environs of the usually bustling Mumbai local train system, it details a romance that develops slowly and intoxicatingly, nestled in the silences and quiet comforts of the end-of-day train journeys.
Our two characters, A and Z, are as poles apart as their locations in the alphabet. A finds his nose stuck in Haruki Murakami’s works, Z finds himself tired after long work days. A is kurtas and kolhapuri chappals, Z is leather shoes and neatly pressed formals. But where they meet is the world of dreams — unarticulated, yet whole in clarity.
Conversations in Sisak are almost primal in execution, without the use of speech but with the language of the body and games of the mind. Whether it is in the books A reads — their titles, their intonations and his interactions with them — or in the books Z eventually begins to read, which serve as indicators of the oneness of their minds, despite how seemingly dissimilar they are. Even their movements from seat to seat, exit door to exit door and in their intimacy that exists, without so much as a physical touch, create the electricity love is meant to have.
Moreover, the overarching idea of serendipity, without the closure of destiny, is what makes Sisak a gut-wrenching experience cinematically. A and Z come together purely by chance — taking the same train among the scores of trains that ply each day, always finding each other even in the desolation of empty compartments and the synchrony in which their eyes meet — and yet it all seems pre-ordained, an end to which remains to be seen.
Besides what is seen on screen, there is a great sociopolitical underpinning to Sisak’s content. Knowing that romantic relationships beyond the purview of heteronormativity are not legal (nor decriminalized, as was once the case following the Delhi High Court judgement), the cinema reflects the ethos of most film projects worldwide which show an individual journey of coming to terms with and expressing one’s sexuality. That a space as public as that of a local train can be used to depict such a private journey of wordless admission for both A and Z is beautiful in itself.
Keeping the setting minimal and shooting completely on location lends Sisak the authenticity that makes the story of A and Z more believable. The juxtaposition of the buzzing and almost blurry cityscape against their measured and budding romance, that holds no structure, makes the premise of the story all the more striking. Drawing its opening lines from Haruki Murakami’s Sputnik Sweetheart, the beginning sets the tone for what is to follow — an expected trajectory played out in the most unexpected way.
Sisak is likely to strike a chord on an individual and interpersonal level, regardless of whether the story is one that seems plausible in one’s own life. A return to the unspoken, unsaid and universal expressions of love, on the path of subtlety and humanity, Sisak is the result of the belief that if love knows no bounds, it need not be bound with words, either.
Directed by Faraz Arif Ansari
Silent, 16 minutes, 2017, India