Sahirr Sethhi’s 27-minute adventure-drama Zoya is about a wildlife conservationist, played by Rajesh Tailang, and his intern, played by Manjot Singh, trying to spot the Bengal Tiger named Zoya.
The Bengal Tiger is a majestic animal and a frightening one in equal measure. Awe and dread are common emotions associated with it. However, Sethhi’s Zoya is not about this — and that’s what makes the short film different, perhaps even special. Zoya is not about the brute power of the tiger or the trance it induces, but it establishes an emotional connect with the animal and highlights a delicate balance of life. Within the first few minutes we are made a part of the search for the missing tiger — we are made to long for the missing three-year-old Zoya.
The short film manages to shed light on the loneliness of wildlife conservationists, the dullness of bureaucracy surrounding it, the darkness cast by wildlife poaching and, finally, on the tiger that is an enigma.
Dr Kapoor (Tailang) is obsessed with locating Zoya, the tiger he was ‘responsible’ for re-introducing into the wild. The director tries to add a subaltern narrative to Dr Kapoor’s obsession, but it’s left sketchy and open-ended.
Dr Kapoor’s intern, Armaan (Singh) comes across as a naïve biologist, and even as a nosy Delhi boy who even likes to growl like a tiger.
The short-film begins with a parched and arid feel that is aggravated by the rustling dryness of Madhya Pradesh’s jungle. The dry riverbeds adds to the milieu. This gives way to a fresh greenery binging with it hope — the takeaway from Zoya.
Sethhi’s Zoya, which has won several honours and has screened at about a dozen film festivals across the world, recently released on Mubi.