Published: 24th February 2021
Has he lost it or have we?: This 27-year-old Odia director's short film spins an eerie tale around COVID-19
Empty streets, bleak moods with no one in sight, such were the days of the lockdown. The Odia movie Boffin, directed by Rajendra Mohanta, captures this aptly. You need to watch it to find out
Merriam-Webster describes the word 'boffin' as a scientific expert. In the short film Boffin, we see one such expert descend into madness. But has he really lost his mind or lost hope for humanity? He wanders the empty streets of Bhubaneswar, feeding dogs and appreciating the crows who have torn into a politician's posters. He converses with statues and drinks water from a fountain. It's eerie and disturbing. Superbly enacted by Partha Sarathi Ray and brilliantly directed by Rajendra Mohanta, the under 20-minute film attempts to ask, 'What have we brought upon ourselves?'.
Rajendra | (Pic: Rajendra Mohanta)
Though the shooting of this short film was wrapped up in three to four days in November 2020, one after another, about three to four cast and crew members caught COVID and Rajendra waited patiently for their recovery. "It was difficult to shoot the film because there was severe lockdown. But we somehow managed to pull it off," says the 27-year-old director who has worked with the likes of Ashok Pati, Prashant Nanda, Subash Das and Sushant Mani, with whom he has worked on 11 to 12 films.
"The message that we wanted to convey was clear — mankind has been troubling Mother Nature for time immemorial. Coronavirus is her way of getting back to us," says Rajendra who was born in Bandhagan, Jajpur district, Odisha. Boffin, the protagonist, is highly-educated and understands this. That's why he behaves in a certain way which makes laypeople give him the tag of 'abnormal’. But the point is that we are the ones who are displaying behaviours that are not normal to us, like destroying nature mindlessly. Partha Sarathi Ray's acting skills are on full display here and accompanied by Manoj Mishra's voiceover, it's goosebumps all the way.
Since the lockdown has given us all a lot of time to reflect and introspect, Rajendra too takes us back to the days when he stepped on a set after pursuing his plus two. "I was looking at everyone being yelled at, only the director, at any given point, was not screamed on. That was my first motivation to become a director," recalls the youngster jovially. After pursuing his Mechanical Engineering from Kalinga Nagar Polytechnic, he worked in the mainstream Odia industry to learn the tricks of the trade and currently, is an independent filmmaker.