'Azaad' Reminds Us What Independence Cost To Gain

This short film, directed by Chandan Roy Sanyal, manages to avoid the jingoism that usually defines Independence Day tributes.

A few days before India's 69th Independence Day, actor-filmmaker Chandan Roy Sanyal has come out with a short film that pays tribute to the sacrifices that were made.

Titled Azaad, it stars Sanyal himself as the eponymous, archetypal foreign-returned son of the soil, travelling through Rajasthan with his American-accented girlfriend Akira (Merenla Imsong). In the midst of a conversation with their driver Toba Nek Singh, Azaad starts having a panic attack and gets flashbacks to the stories his freedom fighter grandfather, Aga Khan (Adil Hussain), had told him.

In black-and-white sequences set in 1942, at the height of the Quit India movement, we're told the story of the day Aga and his friends Binoy (Noel Manasseh), Dinesh (Amol Parasher), and Badal (Sudeep Modak) went about the dangerous task of delivering a loaded pistol to fellow revolutionaries across the border, all while trying to avoid armed sepoys working for the British Raj.

What Azaad lacks in subtlety (which is not as much as the average Indian short film, mercifully), it makes up for in execution, particularly a nicely shot sequence in what appears to be the Chand Baori stepwell near Jaipur.

Effectively, it reminds us that India's independence from colonial rule was gained at the cost of tremendous bloodshed and a loss of innocence. Commendably, Sanyal opts to depict British oppression only through sound design and shadow-play, avoiding the temptation to give the story a recognisable villain (and thereby also succeeding in not being needlessly xenophobic, unlike this horrendous short from last year).

Watch Azaad above.

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