Unpaused Naya Safar Review: Nagraj Manjule's Vaikunth is a class apart in an otherwise decent anthology mix

Unpaused Naya Safar is a decent anthology with a good mix of light-hearted and intense stories set in the pandemic world.

Updated on Jan 21, 2022 07:43 PM IST  |  826.7K
Unpaused Naya Safar Review
Unpaused Naya Safar Review: Nagraj Manjule's Vaikunth is a class apart in an otherwise decent anthology mix
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Unpaused Naya Safar 

Creators: Shikha Makan, Ruchir Arun, Nupur Asthana, Ayappa  KM and Nagraj Manjule

Cast: Shreya Dhanwanthary, Saqib Saleem, Neena Kulkarni, Priyanshu Painyuli, Ashish Verma, Nagraj Manjule and others 

Streaming Platform: Amazon Prime Video

Rating: 3/5 

Streaming giant Amazon Prime Video returned with its sequel to its 2020 anthology Unpaused. This time titled, Unpaused Naya Safar, the anthology follows the same route - 5 filmmakers, 5 riveting short stories and set during the Covid-19 pandemic. While the first season included stories set at the beginning or a few months into the pandemic, Unpaused Naya Safar largely leans towards the second wave, which was even more deadly for India than the first. 

The anthology begins with a classic insight into the work-from-home life that we've all come to live and briefly even love it. Nupur Asthana's The Couple stars Shreya Dhanwanthary and Priyanshu Painyuli as an urban Mumbai married couple with corporate jobs. The short shines light on lockdown frustrations, diminishing personal boundaries and space, the helplessness of a job loss and a tale of love and friendship. Both Shreya and Priyanshu make you a part of their tense lives with their acting, chemistry and a great monologue. The Couple is a decent start to Unpaused Naya Safar. 

Then comes along War Room by Ayappa KM starring Geetanjali Kulkarni, Rasika Agashe, Purnanand Wandhekar and Sharvari Deshpande. The short film chronicles the life of a widow and teacher who is now dedicating her energies and time at a Covid-19 war room in the city as schools continue to remain shut. Ayappa KM smartly weaves an intriguing narrative amid the buzzing war room that witnesses calls by the second. Connecting the past to the present, War Room keeps you hooked while painting a picture of grief, humanity and loneliness. Geetanjali Kulkarni as always makes an everlasting impression. 

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The third short in Unpaused Naya Safar is Saqib Saleem, Ashish Verma and Sam Mohan starrer Teen Tigada. Directed by Ruchir Arun, this one is the longest of the lot but probably not the strongest. Revolving around three young guys whose end goal is to make some money by selling goods to a shady businessman, their lives take a hit when the lockdown brings the entire country to a standstill. Stranded with little food and money, the short captures the journey of these three guys from acquaintances to friendship, due to their circumstances. While the trio dish out a good performance, there is little to keep you hooked or interested in the story even though the writers try to add layers of alcoholism, family issues and more. 

Next in line is Gond Ke Laddu by Shikha Makan. The short features veteran actor Neena Kulkarni, Darshana Rajendran and Lakshvir Singh Saran. One of the most breezy short films of the mix, Gond Ke Laddu is also the weakest. Predictable story telling, basic writing and average acting performances, this short of a delivery boy and senior citizen will not surprise you. 

Unpaused Naya Safar ends on a high note with Nagraj Manjule's Vaikunth. As apt as its title, the short film is set inside a crematorium amidst the deadly second wave. The film stars Manjule along with Arjun Karche and Hanumant Bhandari. The Sairat filmmaker, who is a master storyteller of raw emotions, treads this path as he plays the role of a crematorium worker. Manjule looks, feels and authentically brings his character to life as he day in and day out he cremates bodies for a living. With minimal dialogues, the film's cinematography does most of the talking. Uncomfortable silences and heart aching glimpses like a kid practising his math by counting the number of dead bodies make Vaikunth a stand out. 

The short is also a stark reminder of death and new life as the crematorium words read, "Yaha amir aur garib ka bistar ek hi hota hai (Here, the bed of the rich and poor is the same)." 

Over all, Unpaused Naya Safar is a decent anthology with a good mix of light-hearted and intense stories. Even though these short films are set in the pandemic world, it never gets too much except for Vaikunth which might tear you up.

ALSO READ: Unpaused: Naya Safar title track revolves around gratitude and new beginnings

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