Khuddoos (Manoj Bajpayee) is an impoverished and lonely man living in the bylanes of old Delhi. Through his hidden cameras installed around the neighbourhood, he passes time by watching what goes on in people’s homes and on the streets. He hasn’t moved out of his house for weeks until one day he suddenly hears sounds from the house adjacent to his. A boy is being beaten up and Khuddoos is unable to find any traces of this family on his cameras.
The constant abuse of the boy sets the loner on a mission to rescue him. But can a man trapped by his own circumstances free another individual?
US based writer-director-producer Dipesh Jain makes a riveting debut with In the Shadows. It’s one of those rare films which make you inhabit their space and environment while you are watching. Like the protagonist Khuddoos, you start feeling trapped in the narrow lanes of old Delhi. His shamble of a home emits an unbearable claustrophobia after a point. You feel uncomfortable but you never bat an eyelid. The film engrosses you with such skillful storytelling.
A promising writer-director is also complemented with an interesting star cast in this film, comprising some of the best names from indie cinema. While Manoj raises the bar with his performance, the others too deliver theirs par excellence, including the child actors. Manoj as Khuddoos is a disturbing portrayal of a man with no hope. The actor has visibly lost a lot of weight for the role and looks every bit the person who is steadily drowning in his ruin. He clearly outdoes his own self as an actor with each film. And this film is no exception.
Ranvir Shorey as Khuddoos’ only friend brings in the required conviction to his part. Neeraj Kabi’s abusive butcher elicits the entire range of emotions - from hatred to awe. Shahana Goswami as the butcher’s wife is a delight to watch. A doting mother, she protects her son from her violent and infidel husband and is a loving wife to him all the same.
The editing by Chris Witt is crisp, but lingering occasionally to focus on Khuddoos’ stagnant life. Kai Miedendorp’s cinematography adds the appropriate dark and disturbing visual tone to give this film its noir effect.
After being screened at the Busan International Film Festival (BIFF) and Chicago International Film Festival, In the Shadows had its India premiere at the recently concluded Mumbai Film Festival. The film is also the only Indian nominee for the Kim Jiseok award, a newly established award for the discovery of new Asian directors. Watch out for this gripping tale. movie review