Article by Neha Jain
Photo Credit: Evergreen Memories
Videos: Desi TV Australia
Shab, meaning ‘night’ is a sensitive depiction of the various situations, decisions and issues faced not only by the characters in this film, but our society at large.
This film was showcased as a part of the Westpac Indian Film Festival Sydney where actors Raveena Tandon, Ashish Bisht and Raj Suri along with director, Onir interacted with the audience, screened the film and then discussed the various themes and issues the film brilliantly raises.
The film focuses on four key characters and their universal quest for identity, companionship and belonging, raising important issues humanity often sweeps under the carpet including the casting couch, ‘compromise’, infidelity and same sex relationships.
Ashish Bisht plays the character of Mohan who has relentless passion for desperately wanting to achieve his dream and make it in the field of modelling, at any cost. We observe the series of decisions he makes during this journey, ultimately getting caught in the ‘vicious cycle’ due to his desperation and in the process, losing his innocence, identity and dignity.
Arpita Pal plays the character of Raina, the ‘girl next door’ who develops an alter ego to deal with her own compelling circumstances and is stuck in a vicious cycle that is hard to exit such that she is on the verge of losing her relationships, including the one with herself.
We witness Raveena Tandon and Sunjay Suri playing a ‘happily married’ and glamorous power couple who portray a perfect image for the world to see whilst secretly seeking companionship and a sense of belonging, risking their hard earned respect and status.
Perhaps the most complex aspect portrayed in this film that is also currently relevant to Australian society is the journey and status of non-heterosexual relationships. The film explores how non-heterosexual couples find it difficult not only to express their feelings towards one another in an open environment but to even admitting their sexual orientation in fear of what their families or society will think, and ultimately end up pretending to be something they are not.
This film successfully raises awareness of non-heterosexual relationships and society’s ignorance, denial and lack of acceptability towards them, hence creating the need for such individuals to hide their true selves else risk feeling ‘exposed’. We observe that this is a universal issue not just apparent in India and is often a topic people sweep under the carpet.
Director Onir admitted that it has taken 16 years before he could make and release Shab as audiences were not previously ready to acknowledge, accept or even be educated on the issues raised in this film. It has taken a long time to talk about same-sex marriage and it is finally at the tip of our tongues due to the current political climate in Australia. Given the divided Australian parliament, the government is looking for the popular vote to set the direction for this topic of same sex marriage equality. As an advanced nation, we should embrace progressive thinking and support people of all sexual orientations to have the ability to choose whom they wish to marry and follow the example set by New Zealand and Canada.
The Indian Film Festival is proud to showcase the film Shab, which explores real issues faced not just by Indians but by people all around the world. This film has definitely stayed with me and I am sure it too will leave you feeling enriched with a great appreciation for director, Onir.