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FILM ONLINE The Desi Lockdown, Rifco Theatre

Engaging South-Asian response to the pandemic

FOR reasons good, tragic or indifferent, the coronavirus lockdown will be a period not many people will forget.

As a future aide memoire,  touring company Rifco Theatre, usually based at Watford’s Palace Theatre, have commissioned a quintet of videos to document the diverse experiences of British South-Asian artists during these most unusual of months.

Harry Syed’s film is arguably the most cinematic. Clocking in at just over 80 seconds, Thanks Mum is a witty rumination on the relationship between growing up and food.

After finishing the dregs of his Corona lagers from the night before, he attempts to recreate his Mum’s “world famous” dal makhni whilst under her instruction. What transpires is not the traditional dish but a heart-warming plate of the British-Asian experience which is bound to make you chuckle.

Radhika Jani’s story strikes a more sombre tone. Through Her Bedroom Door is her poetic and deeply personal video record of the overwhelming emotional roller-coaster of her mother’s time fighting off Covid-19.

The pain of her experience is beautifully offset by warm reflections of her father on finally learning guitar “after 50 years of wanting to” and conversations at the family dinner table in what’s a bitter-sweet window into one family’s shifting world.

Quarantine With a South-Asian Family by Nicky Rose Roshini’s is not exactly what it says on the tin. Instead, she portrays different members of her family and re-enacts their interactions with a bright humour but the characterisations are a little too brief to make a lasting impression.

The same could be said of Lock Da Down by Jaswinder Billan —  aka Billanidus —in which he impersonates an evil mother concocting a deceptive “Corona-free virus drink,” in what’s an amusing slapstick sketch nonetheless.

A final shift in tone comes with Jassa Ahluwalia’s Self-Isolation. In a deeply personal monologue, Jani details the loss of his grandfather from natural causes “which seem crueller in these unnatural times.”

A poetic piece to camera, interspersed with archive home video, he wonders “how to begin his Punjabi condolences when he’s only ever expressed material moments?” It is a sobering two minutes.

An exciting package of varied work, the Desi Lockdown is a unique time-capsule which is well worth the watch. 

Available at rifcotheatre.com. Free, donations welcome.

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