Pankaj Tripathi: I have created a unique body language for Laali
Laali premiered at the Dharamshala International Film Festival in 2020
While no one spits lines like him, Pankaj Tripathi can do just fine without them. Abhiroop Basu’s new short film, Laali, mines exactly that — with the actor cast as a lonely ironer in Kolkata. Over a nine-minute opening shot, we see Pankaj tenderly press and smooth out an unclaimed red dress. Of arthouse pretensions there are none. Instead, the actor turns it into something real and intimate.
“In Laali, I’ve tried to bring fragments of my past, memories, and small nuances to construct a unique body language,” Pankaj shares. “Abhiroop approached me and narrated the story at the Mumbai Airport in a span of 45 minutes. I agreed instantly.”
Laali premiered at the Dharamshala International Film Festival in 2020. It is due for a special screening at the Kolkata International Film Festival (KIFF) on January 9. Abhiroop reveals he was standing outside the Tollygunge studios when he caught sight of a man working in his shack. A wedding party was passing by, but the man didn’t budge. “It struck me that in this age of social media, here was someone completely disconnected from the world.” It made him channel into a part of himself, the director says.
Somewhere, the theme of objectophilia — of sexual or romantic attraction to objects — caught on. “People behave in unique ways when they are alone,” Abhiroop notes. “I know people who don’t wear pants at home. In Laali, we see Pankaj’s character stare up at the picture of a woman on his ceiling. What’s kinky or sexual to him might not be so to, say, people who are privileged and have access to porn.”
It’s perhaps what prompted the uncommon praise from Pankaj — “You have made a communist film,” the actor told Abhiroop when they finished.