Sandcastle, is on the surface, Sheila’s story. Sheila (Shahana Chatterjee) is an upper middle class housewife and writer, who is working on her book. She has all physical comforts, is married to Vikram and has a little daughter Iti. However happiness isn’t hers, as she tries to recover her sense of self from the maze of societal expectations where it has gone missing. Sheila gives reign to this disquiet via the character in her book – Maya. We meet Maya too. Maya is what Sheila is not, she’s fancy-free and bindaas, and is always exhorting Sheila to chill, to let go and be happy; “be part of my game” she says. Is Sheila destined to live this duality forever?
I really like the concept this film is based on – Sheila’s inner voice manifests itself as a whole other person, fictional though she may be; it is as if Sheila is split into two – one part of her remains tethered to reality, while the other is footloose, fancy-free and game for anything. Conversations between Sheila and Maya flesh out the struggle that Sheila faces. Is she asking for too much? Is she not? Should she give in? Everyone says she has everything and should be happy – then why is she not? Is it her fault? It brings to the fore an important feminist topic, one that is almost always pushed to the sidelines amidst “serious” feminist issues. Indeed Sheila’s struggle is to assert her identity as an independent thinking person with her own needs and aspirations, apart from the societally-prescribed roles of wife, mother, daughter etc. The break from tradition is hard and paved with taunts from her husband, advice from the parents and lots of raised eyebrows when Sheila attempts to do her own thing.
While the film is conceptually strong, it does not impress on technical fronts. The screenplay seems choppy, and the film doesn’t seem to flow. There is a lot of emptiness in the scenes, with lingering slow-moving shots and long pauses. Transitions are awkward. I am sure that filmmaker Das had ideas she wished to convey with her stylized framing. Unfortunately, I’m not sure I got them. I found the 83 minutes slow-going, and wished that the film had been tighter and had had a stronger narrative.
I’d consider Shahana Chatterjee weak for the lead role – Sheila might have a lot going on inside, but Chatterjee seems to portray her as whiny and grumpy instead. Malvika Jethwani does an impressive job as jaunty, quirky, ever-smiling Maya. Yes Malvika is over-the-top as Maya, but I understand that that is the intention. Uditvanu Das and Rajat Sharma are passable in their roles of friend and husband, respectively. The lady playing Sheila’s mother was poor, although the actor who portrayed her brother did well even in his few minutes of screen-time.
While I’m glad that films like Sandcastle are being made, I’d wish for such films to be a good mix of strong concept AND technical strength. We need women to put their stories out on film, but we need to make them interesting and engrossing, if we are to reach more than a few. Kudos to film-maker Shomshuklla Das on her effort!
Here’s the trailer :