‘Barah x Barah’ : A Poignant Look at Life, Loss, and Change

By Dhaval Roy

Story: A “death photographer” (capturing the deceased’s final image before cremation) grapples with life’s impermanence at Varanasi’s Manikarnika ghat. As his profession fades with the rise of smartphones, he faces the loss of meaning in his work but also the potential need to migrate for a more secure future.

Review: The poignant drama by writer-director Gaurav Madan and co-writer/cinematographer Sunny Lahiri explores life’s impermanence through a death photographer Sooraj’s (Gyanendra Tripathi) lens.The duo excellently captures the ancient town’s essence, translating its slowness into the narrative’s deliberate pacing. Without constant background music or dialogue, the film unfolds quietly, allowing viewers to contemplate the deeper themes.

The movie’s power lies in its subtle storytelling. Despite internal conflict brewing beneath the surface, Madan and Lahiri weave a narrative that unfolds with quiet intensity. Sooraj’s wife, Meena (Bhumika Dube), is supportive yet grounded and recognises the need for change. His sister, Mansi (Geetika Vidya Ohlyan), has moved to Delhi, creating a rift between her and their father, Parbat (Harish Khanna). None of this is conveyed through loud dialogues or scenes.

All the characters are on the cusp of change in some manner. Sooraj moves on to photographing weddings and the living; his friend Dubey (Akash Sinha) wants to give up visiting a brothel and tie the knot and find a job after taking the narrow lanes of Kashi as a protestor. The terminally ill Parbat may break on through to the other side, and Mansi is set to be married.

Pay close attention to the various cameras used throughout the film, hinting at the changing times and Sooraj’s transition. In one scene, a photographer slinks his compact digital camera into its sleeve, Sooraj uses a DSLR, a man clicks his relative’s arthi’s photo on his smartphone, and a professional photographer, Tathagata (Aashit Chatterjee), captures the world on his tele lens.

The actors perfectly capture the restrained vein with their understated performances. Gyanendra Tripathi and Bhumika Dube stand out as a gentle couple deeply in love and appreciative of each other. Geetika Vidya Ohlyan, as an independent woman and a loving sister, is powerful. Harish Khanna, as a traditional man, delivers an impactful performance.

While the film’s pacing and lack of flashy visuals might feel slow for those seeking fast-paced narratives, it rewards patient viewers with a meditative exploration of change, mortality, and family dynamics. — Times of India