Vilom – The dictionary meaning of this Hindi word is Opposite. In the context of director Sundar Pal’s debut film, it signifies contradiction or to be more specific, it points out things that aren’t the norms. Interestingly if one looks up the origin of the word ‘Norm’, it shows to have come from the Latin word ‘Norma’ which means rule or carpenter’s square! In fact, that’s the thing about rules or laws. They’re rudimentary and rigid. The centuries-old, archaic rules are so much ingrained in the thought process of an average Joe that anything that doesn’t fit into his or her rules, it automatically gets deemed as unfit and unethical. ’Vilom’, the film talks about the so-called unethical norms that plague society. More than a film, it’s a social experiment on the mindsets of people.
‘Vilom’ is the story of a man called Vilom and Amay, the man he falls in love with. In about 80 minutes, Vilom and Amay tell their story, that spans across seven years, in three episodes aptly named Desire, Love and Shame. Desire tells us how Amay and Vilom fall in love, with the introduction of a third character Nivi, an aspiring actress. Love is about Amay’s growing insecurities as Vilom and Nivi spend more time together. Eventually, Shame is about a horrific incident that completely changes the lives of Vilom and Amay. It’s the directorial debut of Sundar Pal, who plays the titular role of Vilom. Navpreet Moti plays Amay and Ambika Kamal plays Nivi. It’s an interesting take on people, their individual sexuality and their perception of others’ sexuality.
The film dabbles in multiple concepts and successfully draws attention towards each of them. Vilom’s passion for his craft and art is questioned by his love. Nivi, a woman who gets engrossed into her passion of acting yet when the time comes to face the truth, she develops cold feet. Amay, a man who is deeply in love with Vilom, struggles with his own insecurities. These are three very different characters, trying to overcome their individual limitations. With Amay, Vilom truly realises who he is, though being with Nivi, also gives him a different satisfaction. Nivi, after performing an erotic sequence on camera, gets sexually and intellectually stimulated by Vilom. But Vilom’s truth draws a barrier between her and Vilom. In fact, Vilom himself is seen shattered after Nivi’s outburst. It’s the very moment when he realises the purity of Amay’s love for him. These human emotions make the film more humane in nature.
The third and concluding part of the film makes you uncomfortable as the events unfurling on the screen exhibits the hatred and the anger that remains ingrained in people. It shows that what a morally corrupt and constantly decaying society is capable of. Amay and Vilom go through a night of inhuman torture that leaves them shattered. It also shows them the ugly side of society and its lack of acceptance of their relationship. The film ends on a poignant note as Vilom sees Amay trying to lead a more conventional life, as perceived by the society, which makes him ponder about his own choices in life.
Among the actors, Navpreet Moti does exceedingly well as sensitive Amay. In one of the best scenes of the film, Amay breaks down in front of Vilom, while talking about his insecurities in chaste Punjabi. Up to that moment, the characters had been speaking in English. That very moment makes the whole movie come alive. Ambika Kamal shines as Nivi but as the third cog in this wheel, doesn’t get much to do after the second act. ‘Vilom’s director Sundar Pal is much more capable than the actor Sundar Pal. Technically well-shot and edited, the film fully utilises the scenic city of Chandigarh, as it becomes a lone spectator to the events occurring in the film. Rest of the actors do well. The pace of the film does throw a challenge until the second act, after which the film runs at a breakneck speed.
‘Vilom’ is now streaming at B3 biennale of the moving images in Germany