The production house goes by the name of Bakait Entertainment but don’t you dare think that they would be serving you some Sajid Khan kind of cheesy (and mindless) comedy flicks. For they are here to raise some serious hell; and hell they do raise with ‘Vigil Bastard’.
The 17-min short begins with a quote by Fredrick Nietzsche: “He who fights with monsters might take care lest he thereby become a monster. And if you gaze for long into an abyss, the abyss gazes back at you.”
That quote sums up what ‘Vigil Bastard’ is all about. Not everyone can make their environment a part of themselves. Some succumb to the environment of which perhaps they never wanted to be a part of. ‘Vigil Bastard’ is not for everyone. Those who enjoy steady dollops of the mediocre sold in glittering packages are advised to stay away from this short film. This film by Gulshan Singh adds a drop in the ocean of parallel cinema where every thought, dialogue, or expression is beautifully presented without the need for words.
There are not too many dialogues in this excellent narrative of a man caught in the very system he wants to eradicate.
The plot, from the outside, is simple. A man – an agent, played by Judhajeet Mukherjee – is tasked by his superior, Lucifer, essayed by Rohit Upadhyay, to nab a malicious individual who goes by the name of Vigil Bastard (Mukherjee again) and terrorizes common people. The agent so tasked is instructed that his failure won’t be tolerated, and that he should stay away from his family and loved ones during the mission. Eventually, this very agent becomes the Vigil Bastard, losing everyone he held dear – particularly the woman of his dreams, portrayed by Amita Nowal.
But this is just on the outside – the outer layer of a thought that goes so deep, it would take only the discerning to fathom it.
Through the unnamed agent, ‘Vigil Bastard’ holds a mirror to the trap most of us are in. We may be doing different things, engaged in our own businesses or professions, but all of us are, perhaps unconsciously, part of a system we abhor.
‘Vigil Bastard’ tells us the painful reality we are in. We want to escape this reality but we can’t, and instead become a part of the reality itself.
You can understand the message better from the struggle of those who fight corruption; graft continues to prevail, and those fighting it either give in or lose their own existence. He who is trapped in the wrong profession can be called the Vigil Bastard. Howsoever he might want to come to terms with the work he doesn’t like, he fails each time. The student forced to study something she is not interested to pursue is a Vigil Bastard and so is the overzealous worker who is ready to sacrifice his all for the sake of the company.
In the end, we see the agent who had transformed into the Vigil Bastard back in his original self; his lover walks up to him and sits by his side. Whether it is an illusion or for real is left for the viewer to figure out.
As for the acting, excellent would be the word.
Judhajeet essays the dual roles to perfection, transforming himself into the agent and the titular character effortlessly. Rohit does a magnificent job of a stern commander (the unforgiving system) who is not ready to accept failure of the subordinate. Amita has no dialogues but she succeeds in emanating the pain suffered by every near and dear one of someone trapped in the mire of the system. Of particular note is the cinematography. Certain scenes are noteworthy for the effect they produce on the narrative. Made on a shoestring budget, ‘Vigil Bastard’ is the kind of movie which should be taken seriously by all and at every level for it relies on the art of telling a meaningful story – an art increasingly disappearing from mainstream filmmaking in India.