The rising sea levels have caused the low-lying city of Kolkata and the delta region of Sunderbans to submerge under the water of Hooghly in the dystopian future of 2040. As climate change results in the wrath of nature, the homeless city residents fight against the water currents and pride of Bengal tigers – for survival. With such a stunning backdrop and an eerie atmosphere progresses the short film Wade, directed by Upamanyu Bhattacharya and Kalp Sanghvi and produced by Ghost Animation Collective. Despite being a freshman feature with budget constraints, this short film keeps you captive within its delicate eye for detail and a harrowing sense of horror, much like the animation of Satoshi Kon and Cartoon Saloon.
Wade uses a dynamic of sources to construct a captivating experience. As if the superbly hand-drawn frames don’t invite much distress already, the film uses a wealth of subtext from a sense of folklore to the nuances of real research and combine them quite forcefully. However, if you think this is just one of the dark dramas about humans and animals that doesn’t sit well for the faint-hearted, hang in there because the narrative employs an unquestionably human gaze and there’s intense perspicacity in the way in which that works. The animals are more expressive in their anger, forgiveness, and “humanity” than the actual humans who almost literally feel impassive.
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The 10-minute short has more layers than meets the eye. The clothes, the body language, the immediate response of the humans of Wade suggest a broader picture: that of the quandary of our country. We may be a fastly developing, ‘second-largest’ democracy but we remain ignorant towards poverty. The human characters of Wade seem too comfortable with the apocalyptic situation of waterlogging – these are only the poor perhaps because the better off people might have been aware of the future situation and must have migrated to a more secured land. The film is about selfish and ignorant human behavior. While those with truly overburdened nature flee from the trouble it has wrecked, those who are left behind will exploit the other humanity if that benefits them. Certain scenes such as one involving the cutting of a beast for cooking and the killing of an infant are truly gut-wrenching.
The horror story is punctuated to a higher level because you feel the excruciatingly minute world-building. The way the initial scenes unfold with a submerged view of Kolkata and the harrowing animation pieces of Howrah bridge, tram buses, and other familiar areas over which the narrative is constructed disturbed the Calcuttan in me. It also astounded me that what can such brilliant young minds do if their potential is used on a more extensive range considering the first effort has such distinction. Wade also kills the regular Indian animation’s cringe-worthy attempts at thrilling the audience with a natural sense of urgency. While it isn’t the regular jump scares that it caters to, the horror is real and rooted in the space of the viewer. It goes through your spine and moves into your ear with the uncanny sound design of Troy Vasanth.
The film uses various kinds of horrors and expands on each of them. But it doesn’t feel like the director duo is doing this to capitalize on the genre tropes and overstuff the film with many climate-change and moral issues. These are more than just the outcomes of the creative team’s mind-space. They are a part of the film’s storytelling. Wade also reminded me of Abhiroop Basu’s splendid short film ‘Meal’, which similarly used minute tension and many themes to traverse the socio-politically charged narrative with more intimate anger. Like that film, this one too doesn’t have a single line of dialogue. But for the influences, the entertainment it has to provide is honest. It should have been longer but this complaint of mine emerges purely from the urge to relish more of the same. Do not miss it when it arrives near you.
LINKS TO WADE: IMDB