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Sandcastle (The Search) is the beautifully intricate story of a young woman on her journey of self-discovery and her break through of societal pressures in a modern India. The movie is the debut feature for director and writer Shomshuklla Das and on the modest budget, can be described as nothing short of a work of art.
The story is about Sheila (Shahana Chatterjee) and her philosophical search for a sense of self, with the help of the enigmatic and illusive friend, Maya (Malvika Jethwani). The character of Maya is a creation of Sheila’s for her forthcoming book publication, a work that makes her traditional and blunted husband Vikram (Rajat Sharma) slighty unsettled. As she seeks to gather philosophies on her place in society, through various interactions and monologues with her “imaginary friend” Maya, the development of her book is almost metaphorical for the development of her own clarity on life, which is a goal she is striving for from the beginning. This idea is reinforced as the film moves along in chapters, much like the chapters of the book, the epilogue concluding the end of her journey.
The actors were well cast for this movie, with Chatterjee giving a truly compelling performance, as she moves along frustrated and confused throughout the film. Her close friend and publisher, Koushik (Uditvanu Das) does an excellent job of portraying the likable character who provides lucidity to her rants, as a clear level headed associate.
Although many moments of the film can appear unclear and at times surreal, Das noticeably uses the narrative as a way to vehicle conflicting ideas about women that appear in modern, urban Indian society. Sheila battles with her position as a housewife, mother and businesswoman, and is confused in what it is that she strives for. From the outside she has the perfect life: husband, child and career and yet she battles to find a voice and to build her dreams, much like the metaphor of the constantly changing sandcastles.
There are some charming little idiosyncrasies to this film, in particular worth noting the constant switch between English and Indian, a character reminiscent of The Science of Sleep, representative of a battle between traditional and modern Indian society.
Some important and rather poignant messages are conjured up in this bright and beautiful journey of a woman building her life. The ending is settling and although the film has its fair share of surreal moments, there is clarity to the communication of Sandcastle that reads much like a wonderfully crafted manuscript.