Sha Sa Ha: This retrospective on paused lives tells us not to lose heart

Sha, Sa, Ha are three consonants in the Malayalam alphabet. When they stand alone, these consonant letters don't have any meaning. However, these last letters also suggest that there is always the possibility of a new beginning. And that's what the Malayalam documentary 'Sha Sa Ha' conveys.

The 40-minute docu-fiction, currently streaming on Nee Stream, traverses from the pre-COVID-19 world in 2013 through the footage of a few characters and is interspersed with visuals on their present-day life shot by themselves in the backdrop of the lockdown.

The pandemic has in fact paused many people’s long-plotted plans about family and career. It forced everyday classes and even celebrations to migrate to Zoom or online medium. And it warped many people’s sense of time, causing monthslong stretches to seem interminable in a moment but passing in a blip in retrospect.

Helmed by cinematographer Ratish Ravindran, the film opens on the 60th day of the lockdown, looking back at the good old times. The few characters who come through the journey include a poet-research fellow, a former blind school headmaster, an ex-defense personnel who is a swimming instructor, a Nangiarkoothu artist and a budding actor.

Each characters who had been busy building their lives are much later seen grappling with what the 'lockdown pause' meant for their long-term life goals, and are seen trying to figure out where to channel their thwarted ambition.

More than the technical perfection or narration, it's the stories of these people that connect the viewers.  

Sathyaselan, the former principal of the blind school, along with his son, develops Sharada Braille Writer, a free software for the blind. And he continues to prefer the calm life he's been leading.

Similar is the case of Kutiyattam artist Kalamandalam Sangeeta who decides to shift from stage performances to online shows. And so does an aspiring actor, who just after bagging a role in a film misses his chance due to the lockdown and finally decides to start his own business venture.

While the narrator conveys a sense of sadness with the raw and selfie-footage format, the ending with greener visuals conveys a sense of hope.

The documentary 'Sha Sa Ha' is a personal retrospective of an artist through the lives of many artists, thus throwing light on how positively life should be taken in the days ahead.

(The movie is available on NeeStream)

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