Kanche aur Postcards, a thirty-minute short film, is a nuanced perspective of what a child’s journey looks like in the world of adults. Set against the colourful lanes and by-lanes and river banks of Udaipur, film maker Ridham Janve might as well be taking a jog down the memory lane, to revisit his childhood memories in the city he grew up in. However, he does more than just that. He explores the innocence of childhood in all its complexities and the dynamics of power in a child’s life through the themes of caste, class and control.
Vipin, the protagonist in the story is a little boy from Mumbai who is spending his summer holidays with his beloved grandma in Udaipur. We are introduced to Vipin’s uncle, who is a strict disciplinarian and someone who is seen as aspiring to climb the ladders of class in hopes for a better, more prestigious lifestyle. This ambition is played out in a clever metaphor, through the location of his house on the upper storey of a lower middle class mohalla, and his relationship with the residents and their children who live on the ground floor. He regards them as uneducated, tardy and a bad influence on his nephew, Vipin. He strictly forbids his nephew to have anything to do with these children. The children spend their afternoons playing with marbles, and like any other child, it is Vipin’s greatest wish to be able to own a few of those colourful objects and play them with the rest of the children in the mohalla. The story revolves around Vipin’s thwarted efforts at trying to own a few marbles, until he exhausts all his honest ideas, and is forced to resort to a dishonest way to be able to buy them.
This simply, yet beautifully made movie makes you think about all the ways we have been controlled as children. It also makes you think if we have been socially conditioned to perpetuate the same kind of control, albeit in varying degrees, on children ourselves. The movie is a thought provoking exploration of the various ways that power dynamics manifests itself. All the relationships we are shown on the screen are a testament to this. The relationship between Vipin and his uncle, Vipin and the other children, and the relationship between his uncle and the other residents of the mohalla; all of these relationships are governed by the invisible, yet unfathomable and unbreachable boundaries of patriarchy, caste, class and differences in culture. The hopelessness and anguish the little boy goes through in undoing what he did to be able to buy the marbles, out of fear for what he might have to face at home, is a heart rending depiction of a certain ‘everydayness’ about how at times children are forced to do things against their better judgment, but adults often leave them no choice.
Janve takes care to preserve the innocence of how children are ever-accepting, and non-judgmental in their interaction with each other. Vipin is forbidden by his uncle to engage in unintelligent play with the children downstairs. He comes across as the obvious odd-ball, the boy from the city who hesitates to engage with children from the small town, despite his deepest desire to play with them. Regardless, the children continue to ask him if he wants to play with them. The witty word play by the child actors at different points in the movie gives it an authentic flavour of the innate cheekiness present in children.
Watching Kanche aur postcards evokes a gush of nostalgia and stirs up the bitter-sweet emotions of childhood. It brings to life memories of the several trials and tribulations of navigating the adult world as a child. The movie stays true to its main plot, and creates the magic of making everything seem real by using simple frames which capture the everyday life in the city, more so, the lives of children in a small town household. It does so in an effective manner which is relatable and evocative of childhoods in India, in general. Every scene in this short film is a peak into precious childhood moments and lessons that shape our early years and help us discover ourselves. Regardless of where and how you grew up, you will find bits and pieces of your own childhood in this movie.