How many times have we heard those around us justify boys’ mischief with the phrase ‘boys will be boys’? This phrase is often used to normalise toxic masculine tendencies boys might have — such as being rough and reckless. If left unchecked, ‘innocent’ boys and their ‘innocent’ mischief grow up to be a danger to society.
Sonu, an impressionable young boy, is led to believe that machismo is cool. After all, his father, uncle, and most importantly, the patriarch of his family, his grandfather is so. Even in school, he is taught so by his friends. If girls “act up” all you have to do is “take them to the jungle”.
Sonu (played by Sanika Patel) is a character from Shaan Vyas’ short film Natkhat. The film revolves around a mother, played by Vidya Balan, who notices that her son is gravitating towards misogyny just like the rest of the men in the house. The National Award winner, who has starred in films such as Parineeta, Lage Raho Munna Bhai, The Dirty Picture, and Tumhari Sulu, makes her debut as a producer with Natkhat.
The actress dons the role of a homemaker in a patriarchal family in the short movie, which will be appearing in the Oscar race. Sharing the news about the film’s selection in the Oscars race, Vidya wrote, “So so so thrilled that our film #NATKHAT is in the race for the #OSCARS2021 after a 2020 filled with prestigious international film festivals. (sic)” In a following post, the actress shared a short clip, which spoke a lot about male toxicity that is seemingly normalised in society, from the film.
In the film, Vidya is massaging her son’s head while asking him about a conversation she overheard at the dinner table. He says it’s a new game he learnt at school — how a girl can be taught a lesson if she acts up, by abducting her and taking her into the jungle.
A 33-minute long short film, Natkhat not only explores the relationship between a mother and son nurtured in a patriarchal home but also the rape culture in the form of domestic violence. The film, produced by Ronnie Screwvala and Vidya, was declared eligible for the Oscar 2021 race after it was announced the winner at the Best of India Short Film Festival. Shameless and Saving Chintu accompany Natkhat in the category, while Tailing Pond — a short documentary — is also in the Oscars 2021 race.