The 6th Element, produced by Cinesutra Movies in association with Little Duck Productions beautifully narrates the love story of a widow who was separated from her true love at a young age and a social activist driven by the experience of their own life. The catch, however, is that both these characters are women. Simply put, the movie portrays the story of two lesbians as one who was forced to get married against her wishes, finds solace in the company of the other. Unlike Bollywood’s most popular gay drama, Dostana, this one touches the reality of the situation of ‘closet’ homosexuals in our society.
The film has already been selected at the following festivals:
- Official Selection at Miami Independent Film Festival
- Semi Finalist at the Los Angeles Cine Fest
- Delhi International Short Film Festival (Awarded Best Director, Jury)
- International Short & Independent Film Festival Dhaka (ISIFF) NETPAC JURY NOMINATED
- OFFICIAL SELECTION 10th DIALOGUES INTL’L LGBT FILM & VIDEO FESTIVAL (one of the most important LGBTQ film festival in India)
- Cinemela 2016 organised by West Bengal Government and ABP Group (Awarded Best Actress and Music)
- Inflore’16 Theatrix (Awarded Best Actor Female, Special Mention Jury)
- Official Selection at Mumbai Shorts International Film Festival
- Semi Finalist at Hollywood Screenings Film Festival
This movie is one of its kind, where director Arjun Dutta isn’t trying to strike the right chords via inspirational oratory, heart-rending struggles or liberal do-gooding, but by presenting to his audience a love story which you might find similar to many others you have seen. Thus, establishing the fact that love looks the same in all forms and combinations. The story follows the life of Mrinalini Devi, a widow who lives all by herself in her ancestral house, which she is now selling to an NGO to pay the debts she owes. However, this deal which she was reluctant to sign turned out to be a boon for her as she meets Catherine, who is the head of the NGO which her house is being sold to. Catherine’s confidence and friendly personality and smoking habit reminds Mrinalini of her best friend and first love, Charu, whom she was separated from after Mrinalini’s father suspected Charu of having a bad influence on his daughter. Catherine’s entry into her life brings the old and lost, happiness and zeal back to Mrinalini’s life that culminates in her connecting with the universe by connecting once again with the Sixth Element, the element of ‘love’.
Actress Debjani Chatterjee (Mrinalini) beautifully portrays the subtle inner conflict and struggle of her character. The expressions of being content and yet feeling the presence of an unnecessary, although familiar guilt has been conveyed tremendously, especially in her intimate scenes with Catherine. The director has made the audience’s job of connecting this love story to a heterosexual one easier by presenting the aforementioned guilt in a way which one can compare to that of a couple that has recently met and is afraid of the implications that would follow should the society find out. However, a few exaggerated sound effects, especially those accompanying Mrinalini’s ‘sighs’ can be off-putting.
Although the story revolves mainly around Mrinalini, I was a little disappointed with Catherine’s portrayal. Actress, Verity Danbold, fails to compliment Debjani’s smooth falling-in-love arc. She seems apprehensive towards Mrinalini’s obvious attraction to her in the beginning, and just one peek at Mrinalini’s private moments is enough for her to start reciprocating the affection. An unimpressive element was the short and direct description of Catherine’s life. The presentation of her past was done in a manner which would resemble the conflict that the clichéd Western civilization brat has with their parents and not something that has such a large impact on the person concerned and their family.On the other hand, I believe the background music made up for these drawbacks. Through its background music, well-written script, and complementary acting, the movie beautifully portrays a guilt that lingers behind the honest love between these women. A guilt that although has no reason to exist, emerges out of the restrictions on love that the society has imposed.
Cinematographer, Joy Supratim has effortlessly captured the backgrounds for the scenes. Settings in the movie perfectly highlight the romance and treachery of the situation, proof of this can be given by the fact that all the intimate scenes between our protagonist and her love interest happen inside the 4-walled confines of the house that brought them together. Be it the game they play of writing words on each other’s back, or the scene where Mrinalini explains the five elements (a perfect explanation of the title though); everything is done away from the public’s eye. While in the flashbacks where we see Charu, the two adolescents are seen spending time in the open, carefree of the observers around them. The dingy, historical look of the house, only goes on to enhance the sorrow that accompanies being alone.
Despite some drawbacks, I still recommend this movie to the audience for its heart is in the right place and it conveys its purpose well enough. The movie plays perfectly on its two central themes: the restraints on the LGBTQ+ Community and the oppression of women in our society. The latter being perfectly portrayed in the beginning where we see the Realtor, Shankar bad-mouthing about Mrinalini for being unlucky as she was widowed two years after her marriage, and had a scandalous past (her separation from Charu). Catherine’s business partner points out the hypocrisy of the society as he reminds Shankar of the luck that Mrinalini brought him in the form of commission by selling her house. I would’ve liked a little more detail of Mrinalini’s life following her separation from Charu and of Catherine’s life after she discovered her sexual orientation, which would’ve made the movie more impactful since that is essential to this community’s cause at the moment. Yet the movie was successful in its depiction of ‘the closet’ without taking it too far and the ache to belong in this world. Every scene between Mrinalini and Catherine has a beauty of its own and the movie is worth sticking with till the end for a perfect final bow.