Dinner And A Movie



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There’s a screen set up along the north wall and the projector rests on a table in the middle of the room. It’s not a very large room, so the staff at The Pantry is busy re-arranging the furniture to accommodate as many people as comfortably as possible. There are tables, chairs and benches lined up to face the screen almost as if it were a classroom.

I arrived early, so I’m perched snugly on a window seat at the other end of the café where the tables and chairs aren’t re-arranged. It’s a Friday evening and I’m at The Pantry for Shorts Night – at 8 p.m. the lights will dim, the waiters will temporarily suspend service, and the screen will light up with a selection of short films curated especially for The Pantry and its patrons.

“[Short films night] is a nice thing to do. It’s different.” It’s a comment from one of the other early birds at the table. “Is there anything to do that doesn’t involve alcohol?” asks another. It’s an apt question. Nights out in Mumbai often involve plans to catch up over drinks. And while I have great fondness for beer, it’s nice to be doing something else for a change. The healthy menu at The Pantry is devoid of alcohol, and the films they show aren’t the kind you can drop in to theatres to watch.

It’s unplanned, but my first visit to shorts night coincides with its one-year anniversary. By 8 p.m. the café is packed, and by 8:15 it’s standing room only. The Pantry’s co-owner Pankil Shah kicks off the show with a few words, telling us that tonight’s selection of films is composed of the best films they’ve shown in the past year.

Nights out in Mumbai often involve plans to catch up over drinks. And while I have great fondness for beer, it’s nice to be doing something else for a change.

It’s an international night with short films from Australia, South Korea, USA and India. There are live action and animation films ranging from five minutes to 15 minutes long. I must say I’m not particularly enamoured by short films. I’m not satisfied that the story is over so quickly. Like with a good book, I like my films to draw me in so I’m invested in them. Preconceived notions notwithstanding, I’m curious about what the night has in store.

The first film of the night is Jump, an Australian production about 13-year-old Edwin Albatross who lives with his family of (literal) circus clowns. Edwin has other ambitions and wants to be a trapeze artiste in the circus. The other trapeze artistes constantly mock him, and his father says things like, “Clown is in your blood.” Young Edwin, however, is determined against all odds to nail the auditions. In just 15 minutes I find myself desperately rooting for Edwin to succeed. And thinking that maybe there is something to this short films thing after all.

When the hour is over I’m pleasantly surprised that perhaps the best film (and certainly the one that got the loudest applause) is the shortest one. Johnny Express, a five-minute animated short from South Korea, has no dialogue (meaning no sub-titles) so it’s nice to just sit back and enjoy the exploits of a lazy deliveryman as he attempts intergalactic package delivery.

I made the mistake of not ordering dinner before the screening began (or during the short interval), and I’m now ravenous. The café is bustling again as the waiters hurry to get orders out to the other hungry patrons who have lingered for dinner. Our table is crowded with friends and friends of friends, all of whom are here specifically for short films night. It’s a wonderful way to meet new people and have new conversations over dinner and a movie (or several).

The Pantry Shorts Nights take place on the last Friday of every month at 8 p.m. Entry is free.

The Pantry, Yeshwant Chambers, Ground Floor, Military Square Lane, Kala Ghoda, Fort, Mumbai 400 001. Phone: 022 2267 8901


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