The camera pans across tree-covered hills and stops at a road leading to a brown-roofed building in the distance. The rhythmic tolling of a bell shows that the building is a school. The next scene takes us into the middle of a conversation between two school boys. Within the first minute, the conflict in the story is established – and that sets the pace of the rest of the story.
Set in a small hillside town, “Syaahi” takes us into the life of its protagonist Vansh, a pre-teen ruddy-cheeked boy. Vansh lives in a cottage on the slopes of the hill with his parents. Peeling paint, cracks in the walls, well-worn furniture indicate that it is a house which has seen better times but has fallen to difficult times.
Vansh is keen to go on a trek with his school mates – especially his best friend with whom he plays football every evening. But, money is tight and there is none to spare some for a school trip. When Vansh realises that missing the trek, again, may also mean losing his best friend, he decides to figure out by himself a way to gather the money.
But, he unwittingly lands himself in a soup. In the space of less than 30 minutes, “Syaahi” takes us through the turmoil that young Vansh goes through, as he tries to correct his wrong.
The beauty of “Syaahi” lies in its simple story. The protagonist’s dilemma is not borne out of a deep earth-shattering angst. It is borne out of a wish that may be insignificant to adults, but for a child, nothing could be more important – and anything that needs to be done to fulfill that wish is acceptable. The parent-child relationship shown in the story is relatable – the kind that each one of us share with our parents. As Vansh suffers under the burden of his guilt, it brings back memories of our childhood, and we empathise with him and root for him to escape his parents’ wrath.
Light is cleverly used to set the mood for the scene. The outdoor scenes are bright and sunny and reflect Vansh’s never- give-up attitude, as he tries to find a solution to his problem. In contrast, the scenes inside the house are gloomy and gray. They reflect Vansh’s state of mind when he comes home to a father who barely glances at him as he struggles to complete his novel.
The dialogue is crisp but effective in giving the viewer an insight into the back story, as well as the relationship between the different characters. The film garnered praise in international film festivals across the globe. Back home in India, it won its director a special mention at the 63rd National Film Awards.
“Syaahi” tells the story as is, and refrains from lecturing or moralizing. In the running time of less than 30 minutes, writer and director Varun Tandon opens up for us one chapter in a young boy’s life – a chapter which when filed away with the many others, chronicle our lives.