Aarti Chabria’s 30-minute short film debut Mumbai-Varanasi Express is a reflection on the mysteries of life. When death seems inevitable, people react in different ways. Some set off to accomplish their bucket lists with renewed energy. Others resign themselves to their fate and count their days.

Krishnakant Jhunjhunwala (Darshan Jariwala), looking pale and sick, is on his way to the holy city to attain salvation. Krishnakant has been diagnosed with last-stage colon cancer. In a typically dramatic movie moment, he revisits his possessions and the memories associated with them in his large house before leaving.

Although he is travelling to Varanasi to live out his last days, the city’s people end up invigorating him, especially the rickshaw puller Rafique. The film crams in a plug for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s much derided slogan “Achche Din”, the city’s death economy, and the contamination of the Ganga’s waters. Kailash Kher contributes the song ‘Babbaji’ to the story.

Chabria’s simple and straightforward narrative, with a smart twist in the end, effectively conveys the film’s themes. Mumbai-Varanasi Express leaves us with the question, “What would we have done in the character’s place?”

Mumbai-Varanasi Express.