The Unknowable Fear: A Review of Short Film ‘Stalking Shadows’

The film Stalking Shadows tells the story of a newly arrived bride from India who settles in the US with her husband. However, not long after she moves here, she becomes the object of a stalker’s attention.

Credit: DCSAFF

Last month, I had the wonderful opportunity to attend the DC South Asian Film Festival 2017 at the Montgomery College Rockville Campus. One of the joys of attending the festival is viewing films not only from around the world but also those made right here at home in the DC area by talented actors and filmmakers who are in our midst. One of those terrific films that were produced locally and features local talent was the short “Stalking Shadows” written and directed by Vikram Kolluru and starring Prerna Mohod, Sandeep Sawant and Sangeeta Agrawal.

The film tells the story of a newly arrived bride from India who settles in the US with her husband. However, not long after she moves here, she becomes the object of a stalker’s attention. Who is the stalker and why is he/she after the bride? Will her husband be able to help save her from the stalker? The film answers these questions as it heads towards its unexpected culmination.

I have to start first with the story and direction. In my view, Vikram Kolluru, who is an extremely talented actor and technician, always had that untapped eye for direction and this clearly shines through in the short. The tension unfolds in a manner which is actually pretty scary and difficult to predict, and to keep that uneasiness alive while also trying to conceal the shocking ending is a challenge, yet Vikram does it very well. I think what impressed me most about the film and pleased me as a viewer was the fact that it was a thriller, a genre that many of our locally produced films do not pursue. Sometimes it is challenging to find resources to do anything beyond films that have a very niche or personal outlook, yet the simple fact that this movie used available resources but also was entertaining and effective is testament to the fact that you don’t need to have thousands or millions to make something good. All you need is a good story and a good director, with good actors. It is an extremely tricky and ambitious endeavor to craft a suspenseful film that also works, and Vikram has written it and directed it wonderfully, almost Hitchcockian style. As a horror film fan, I would love for him to make a horror film next!

To the performances, each actor has performed their part with the right tone and conviction. Prerna Mohod displays the transition from being a sweet, innocent young bride to a terrified housewife with ease and flourish. All in all, she is a very talented performer and there is a charm in the effortless manner in which she performs her scenes. Sandeep Sawant, whom I have seen on stage, is an actor whom I admire tremendously. He is a complete natural and portrays the dilemma of a husband trying to protect his wife while also trying to keep things under control, appropriately. Sangeeta Agrawal is always a delight to see on the screen in any role that she does, and it was great to see her in this film as well, although all too briefly. What is amazing about these actors is that they are not professionals and yet they bring so much to the table with their acting. They are driven solely by their passion and I believe that passion brings out more in a performance than any incentive because it is your love for your craft that makes you want to give your best. No false note in a single performance!

Special shout out to Mansoor Ahmed for the speedy editing, which is crucial for a thriller. There have been too many times when I have seen big budget thrillers that underwhelm because they are just too darn slow. A thriller must keep one engaged and oftentimes falls victim to an overindulgent running time. Thankfully, this moves at a fast pace, so there is not a single iota of lag, and the suspense as to who the stalker is, stays well intact. I must also mention the great sound and music work by Onkar Naik, another important aspect of a thriller.

“Stalking Shadows” is a film that impressed me not only with its performances and story but its ability to be minimalist and convey so much with that. It is never easy to make a film with only 3-4 characters, but this comes together really nicely. Move over ITTEFAQ and DHUND, it is time for “Stalking Shadows”.

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