SHORT FOCUS 2021: Rimi [Nischhal Sharma, India, 2021]

The sound of birds singing guide us through a symphony of apparent domestic bliss, a calm-looking, clean-cut interior dotted with pots and pans, mugs, and glasses. The scene could be mistaken for an ode to domesticity, but the emptiness of the house itself is harrowing. The house is waiting for Rimi, who we meet lying in bed with her eyes wide-open in the early hours of dawn, stealing a few moments to herself before taking on the burden of duty of running the place and taking care of everyone who lives within it.


Rimi, an Indian housewife and a mother of two, hardly speaks for most of the film. Essentially, because neither her husband or her teenage kids ever ask for her opinion, what her family demands of her is simply that she cooks, cleans, and attends to their needs. We follow Rimi, unheard and unappreciated, while she moves within the confines of this beautiful house, which quickly starts to feel more like an oppressive prison, as the repetition of domestic tasks reveals itself to be exhausting and unrewarding. That is until Riya, a new friend of Rimi’s daughter, enters the space, piercing through the isolation that surrounds the woman and makes her invisible, and stirs the awakening of a long-forgotten passion and thirst for freedom that Rimi had left behind.

While the ending comes to a predictable conclusion, this is not necessarily a flaw in Nischhal Sharma’s writing, as the story develops in a way that appeals to the logic of the audience. A great deal of attention is given to creating a blissful looking, comforting domestic world within which the viewer can lull themselves, which makes even more powerful the later shattering of the illusion of happiness created by that same environment. The simplicity of the idea feeding the film’s plot conveys without ambiguity a criticism of the situation Indian housewives often find themselves in, torn between their dreams and desires, and the expectations imposed upon them by a conservative view of womanhood within a patriarchal society.


Self-empowerment might ultimately not be enough to free Rimi of the weight of systemic gender inequality and widespread misogyny, but that remains a challenge beyond this film.

 

'Rimi' was part of the Official Selection for Short Focus Film Festival 2021.


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