What is it that makes short films so popular in a cinema crazy country like India where full-length feature films are churned out like hot cakes year after year?
Original content, fresh faces, engaging plots, shorter time spans and a fraction of the budget—it works well for the filmmakers as well as the audience.
With the Internet becoming such an intrinsic part of our lives, short films have helped budding filmmakers and storytellers to showcase their talent and creativity before they can make it to bigger platforms.
And for us viewers, what could be a better go-to option for instant gratification than these small packages of engrossing content?
In recent years, we have seen some really thought-provoking productions come to the fore from across the country. Some of these have even starred veteran, mainstream actors, who have begun to understand the scope and impact of short films on the masses.
But veering away from popular ones that have been covered by most media platforms, we tried to look out for contemporary short films that have stunned people with their amazing storylines, exceptional acting and masterful filmmaking and we hit gold!
Check out these 12 lesser-known short films from varying genres that are bound to leave you speechless, introspective, amused or just simply nostalgic:
1. The Gatekeeper—Directed by Atanu Mukherjee (Hindi)
A remote-manned railway crossing in the middle of nowhere and its lone gatekeeper where every day is routine, but so is solitude. The only moments of buzz in his life are the trains passing by and the quantum of solace he finds in them.
But what if he tries breaking into that monotony with other ways—memories or a simple longing for human contact?
Comprising only two actors with no dialogues, this award-winning short film will make you value your life and people in it that you otherwise take for granted.
2. Afterglow—Directed by Kaushal Oza (Multilingual)
Through a non-melodramatic exploration of grief and death, this short film, quite nonchalantly, charts the events in the life of a Parsi woman whose terminally-ill husband had recently passed away.
Instead of letting traditions and opinions of others get in her way of grieving, she takes her time and dwells through memories from their time together. Perhaps it’s the masterful way the filmmaker has captured every nuance that grows on you, but this film will remain in your mind for a long time.
3. Paroksh—Directed by Ganesh Shetty (Tulu)
What would you do if one fine day you start hearing piercing shrills of a baby around you at weird hours?
When search operations, temple offerings, and even occult rituals fail to resolve this impossible mystery, this epic thriller of a short film will leave you in splits.
A brilliant work that needs more recognition, do not miss this gem in Tulu.
4. Pallotty—Directed by Jithin Raj (Malayalam)
Nothing is more nostalgic than the innocent days of childhood and the unassuming bonds of friendships we forged back then. Innocence is one thing but unconditional love for a friend—now that is a rarity, even amidst children!
Tugging strings at all the right places, this poignant short film shot along the verdant and earthy landscapes of Kerala will take you down memory lane and remind you of your ephemeral friendships while growing up.
5. Debi—Directed by Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury (Bengali)
A reluctant homecoming after years of self-imposed exile—the return is different for the angry daughter who left decades ago and the excited daughter who visits for the first time.
As Durga Puja and colours intrinsic to any Bengali household, this short film explores many hues of emotions through the festive season and obviously, culinary trails and the result—an emotional journey that is touching and heartwarming at the same time!
6. The God Must Be Crazy—Directed by Jayashankarr (Telugu)
Shot entirely on a smartphone, the short film courses through an unusual narrative of a man appearing for a job interview. What awaits him is an all-knowing interviewer who seems to know all the nitty-gritties of his life—both public and personal, and there’s no escape from this interview.
Is the interviewer God, as a seemingly perplexed protagonist comes to believe? And was this interview an introspection of human values that he has lost along the way?
Check this hilarious short film to find out!
7. Saknoia—Directed by Khanjan Kishore Nath (Assamese)
A riverine fisherman whose boat is known for its luck, this father tries to spend all of his meagre earnings to get his children educated so that they can break out of this cycle.
But eyeing his one source of livelihood is a local village leader who is willing to resort to any measures to lay his hand on the priceless fishing boat. A stirring piece of work, language is no barrier for those who drown with the man in this seemingly tragic saga.
8. Aai Shapat—Directed by Gautam Vaze (Marathi)
Most of us have sworn on our mothers while narrating a tall tale to make sure our friends believed them. And in India, an indoctrinated myth is that is when you lie, the person who you swore upon, dies.
A heartwarming funny short that captures the innocence and irrational concerns of childhood, this award-winning short is a gem that’ll amuse and touch you, both at the same time!
9. The Affair—Directed by Surrya M Narayanan (Tamil)
While his wife lies paralysed, this 52-year-old man is having an affair with a woman of his daughter’s age. When his children find out, all hell breaks loose. But the truth is far from what everyone, including his wife, ends up believing. Secrets and lies—at what cost must the greatest sacrifice come?
A heart-wrenching tale captured masterfully, this short film will leave you overwhelmingly surprised at the end.
10. Ambani, The Investor—Directed by Vinod Nag (Kannada)
Adversity takes a toll on the best of us, but only very few can turn such situations around in their favour. With a drunkard father who wastes all the earnings on alcohol, a despondent son decides not to let it get to him, finding an unusual way to fend for himself.
In a series of interesting events, we see a young boy transitioning into an enterprising ‘investor’, but nothing beats the ending, where all preconceived assumptions go for a toss, and you are in for a pleasant surprise!
11. Mahotu—Directed by Vijaygiri Bava (Gujarati)
Literally meaning ‘a filthy rag’, this short film is a take on the toxic throes of patriarchy inflicted upon women through the sands of time. Dowry, domestic violence, and gender discrimination—these topics are given a normalised treatment that enrages the viewer.
Showcasing mother-daughter relationships with two extremely dichotomous examples, this national award-winning short film is an adaptation of a local book by the same name which vibrantly captured the rampant discrimination against women and ends with an unforeseen twist.
12. Stranger in my land—Directed By Duyu Tabyo (Multilingual)
Highlighting the hypocrisy of the Indian society in admonishing racism against Indians living abroad while grossly engaging in the same to our brethren from the North East, this multilingual short film sheds light on the day-to-day trials and tribulations faced by people from the seven sister states.
Chided for how they look, what they wear, what they eat, and the numerous proofs that they are not foreigners in their own country, this short film is a harrowing take on the widespread discrimination towards folks from North East face that we must all watch.
(Edited by Shruti Singhal)