Prajakta Kohli’s short-film Khayali Pulao is here, marking the much-awaited acting debut of the YouTube sensation. Kohli recently mentioned that this short-film was her dream-project and she had been working on it for almost seven months. The film is directed by Tarun Dudeja.
Moreover, well-known casting director Mukesh Chhabra, who will make his directorial debut with Dil Bechara, has managed the casting for this short-film. Additionally, the film’s music composed by Sanket Sane, Rishi Dutta, Shivangi Bhayana and Mohit Gaur adheres to the folk and rustic flavour of the film and hence admirably supports the narrative. The twenty-four-minutes short-film is now available on Kohli’s YouTube account for viewing.
We often tell people not to cook up ‘Khayali Pulao’ if we feel they are so much as thinking of breaking character and stereotypes or trying to do something different. However, we seldom pause to think that there might be a deeper reason behind this daydream of theirs, which might have sprung up from a need to realize something bigger and better. And that is exactly what the plot of this short-film deals with. The film is set in the rural landscape of Haryana. It follows a young Haryanvi teenage girl named Asha (Prajakta Kohli) as she struggles to fulfil her dream by getting selected for the school’s handball team.
The film opens with an interesting frame, with the camera moving around Asha, while she is lost in her daydreams. The shot hints at some secret desire that this girl harbours, and why the film is aptly named Khayali Pulao. Although, this secret desire becomes clear only near the end of the movie, which culminates with a similar shot. It is this suspense, which is kept intact till the last frame, that makes this short-film such a delightful watch.
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Prajakta Kohli, who has won the internet over by her witty and relatable content as a vlogger-turned-influencer, does a commendable job as Asha. Her expressions convey deep-seated emotions quite well. They reflect a teenage girl’s vulnerability, as well as her stoic resolve of finding a way into the team. Kohli’s grasp on the Haryanvi dialect is also impressive. She makes the audience both laugh and shed tears at her dorky attempts at being a sportsperson, her triumph bringing a sense of achievement which is hard not to identify with.
The other actor who does an equally compelling job is Yashpal Sharma, who plays the role of the sports coach. He cannot fathom why the school topper with her slow reflexes is hell-bent on making it to the school team. He scolds her, but is never abusive or insensitive. Even though he never eventually understands her desire to play handball, he gives her the opening she desperately needed to fulfil her desires. And perhaps that is what makes his character so loveable.
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The short-film uses the innocence of teenage aspirations and mixes it with the gender-inequalities still much prevalent in rural Haryana. Asha finding underhand ways to realize her desires leaves the audience both chuckling and distressed at the pitiful conditions young girls grow up in, even in today’s India. Most of their lives are reduced to prepping up for a good marriage since their childhood. This is the lived reality of many girls in the country and the film doesn’t let you forget that. From Asha’s friend refusing to play handball because it might cause her hymen to break (in turn, decrease her chances of getting married effortlessly), to Asha’s parents wondering how a girl who wears jeans will ever find a good husband, the prejudices young girls have to deal with in our society are presented in their rawest forms.
On the other hand, the short-film offers viewers hope. Not only is Asha successful in achieving what she wants to, the solidarity among young girls presented in the film is laudable. Asha’s teacher Indu Ma’am helps her with the practice, even at the risk of losing her temporary position as a teacher in the school. She offers her the much-needed advice, and also tries to make her see the reality. Asha’s mother is supportive and caring. She brings a sense of balance to the whole film with her inherent knowledge of why her daughter wants to try her hand at sports.
The short-film overall touches upon a very relatable part of all our lives. It talks about women empowerment that should be and already is taking place on a grass-root level. And perhaps that alone makes up for its win.
Picture Credits: YouTube Screenshot
Dyuti Gupta is an intern with SheThePeople.TV. The views expressed are the author’s own.