How do you protest when no one listens to you? That’s the central question of the 19-minute short film ShutUp directed by Ashutosh Pathak and released by Sikhya Entertainment on its YouTube channel.
The fires of protest burn within 20-something Arjun (Arjun Radhakrishnan) but few are willing to buy his outrage. His partner Samiya (Anuritta K Jha) thinks it’s only an excuse to miss an appointment with her parents. His chest-thumping brother-in-law (Kartik Krishnan) thinks it’s teenage angst. And the fact of the matter is that Arjun isn’t sure what he’s talking about either.
He knows that Dub Sharma’s mashup of Kanhaiya Kumar’s Azadi slogans fires him up. He knows that “fat” comedians getting beaten up for making jokes is wrong, and that students should be able to say whatever they feel like, but he doesn’t know what to do about it. Paralysed by fear and doubts over the futility of protest, Arjun dithers over attending a rally to protest the sustained attacks on the freedom of expression.
One of the best moments takes place inside an autorickshaw. Shameen (Aakash Prabhakar), a “part Muslim” who is frustrated by the constant feeling of not belonging, loudly yells “Beef” as a form of protest. Shameen used to carry pepper spray to protect himself from physical attacks, but has now shifted to chilli powder in case the police get suspicious about a Muslim with a weapon. The acting is stilted at times, but the strong writing drives the momentum.