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Tokri is used with permission from Suresh Eriyat. Learn more at http://omele.to/355hDrw.
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A young girl lives with her family in Mumbai, occupying a rundown home that speaks to their poverty and destitution. Yet there is much love to be found in these humble surroundings, particularly between the girl and her hardworking father.
Still, it’s difficult being poor, and when the young girl accidentally breaks the father’s beloved watch, it’s a huge loss for the struggling family. So the young girl sets out to make money to repair the watch, by selling homemade baskets on the streets of the city. But as she faces indifference and even cruelty on the streets selling her wares, her hopes of repairing the watch — and her father’s spirits — begin to dim.
This animated short — directed by award-winning Indian animator Suresh Eriyat under the auspices of his Studio Eeksaurus — tells a simple, even humble story about familial bonds, the love between a father and daughter and the experience of being destitute. These “ingredients” are almost homespun in their simplicity, but they achieve a powerful resonance when woven together with an exceptional sense of artistry and creative ambition.
Like many animations, the craftsmanship is clearly labor-intensive, but the storytelling of “Tokri” in particular possesses an unusual cinematic sweep. In its deliberate pacing, attention to small telling detail and a sense of the panoramic, its film language has more in common with classical European art cinema movements like Italian neorealism than typical children’s cartoons or even more artful take on animations, which often dazzle with unique visuals but approach camera and editing with a straightforward utilitarianism.
But in “Tokri,” camera movements track for long durations along the streets of Mumbai; wide shots capture the way this unforgiving urban environment can engulf those barely hanging on. This visual approach emphasizes a finely drawn social and cultural context — one that complicates its beautifully simple story and adds a bittersweet tinge to its considerable emotions.
Though there is no dialogue, sound is used superbly, designed with layers of ambient and background noise that evoke the density of Mumbai’s urban experience. The sound design is also embellished with a tasteful, evocative musical score, one that gracefully underlines the emotions of the story without overstepping or dictating what they are. The story itself seems slender and even fragile on the surface, but the craft emphasizes the weight and resonance of even the smallest moments — eventually earning its gentle, tender and heartrending ending.
Though it is animated, “Tokri” insists upon being a film — that is to say, it utilizes all the elements of cinematic craft in an artful way. Infused with a rich, calm yet unflinching humanity, it reaches a genuine sense of poetry, allowing each character and story movement a weighty dignity and fullness of expression, which ultimately offers a window into what it’s like to exist under oppressive poverty.
Being poor does not define these characters, who dream, love and connect like anyone else, and their love in this context is both heroic and touching. But being unprivileged creates considerable obstacles that they may not have the time, energy or resources to navigate — and it shapes their social interactions in a way that reinforces their sense of invisibility in society. What haunts most about the ending of “Tokri” is how it situates familial love as both a balm and comfort in the face of grinding poverty — but also recognizes that, as warm and vital as that love is, it cannot change a monumental level of societal indifference and contempt.
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A young girl discovers the value of her father’s most treasured possession. | Tokri
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