Natkhat is a 2020 short film directed by Shaan Vyas and written by Vyas and Annukampa Harsh. The film stars Vidya Balan as a mother educating her young son about gender equality and stars child actress Sanika Patel as the young son. It premiered on YouTube as part of the We Are One: A Global Film Festival on the 2nd of June 2020.
The film sends an impactful message of how the issue of women abuse stems from the patriarchy driven society and how the highly prevalent issue of domestic violence can be dealt with by changing a child’s belief system. The short film saw child actress Sanika Patel playing the role of the main character who is a boy to adhere to its message and convey the message with more compassion.
Co-writer of the short film Annukampa Harsh describes to the audience how she found the perfect fit for the role “One fine day I was generally scrolling through Instagram when I came across an uncredited post of a little girl reciting a powerful poem by Sohanlal Dwivediji. Not only was this child’s command over the Hindi language flawless, but her recitation style was also beautifully fiery and strong! “
Annukampa further added “I instantly began searching for this girl, and through the comments section discovered her uncle, traced her, and was on a call with her within the next hour. I instinctively knew she is our Sonu, and I texted Shaan within moments of “discovering” this child- Sanika Patel.”
Director Shaan Vyas responded saying “I get a text from Annukampa with an Instagram link of a girl reciting poetry. The girl, Sanika, was mesmerizing: extremely emotive and expressive. And the cherry on the cake was that she could remember long passages of poetry with ease: a dream come true for a director. However, I completely missed the point of this link since this was a girl.”
Shaan further adds “Annukampa then called me up and asked me if I saw the link and began persuading me to consider this girl for Sonu. She added that since I was anxious about teaching a boy the very things he’s not meant to do, this casting decision will solve that problem, while also bringing a little girl’s sensitivity during Sonu’s scenes with other girls.”
Shaan Vyas continued “She mentioned that classical films frequently applied such gender-fluid casting. She had cracked it, and I was convinced: this one little decision changed the course of the film entirely. Now, we had a girl who brought in so much compassion and understanding to the character because she was sensitive enough to weigh the implications of what her character was doing. And to be fair, so were all the other wonderful children who are a part of our film.”
The film has been produced by Ronnie Screwvala and Vidya Balan. The short film is written with Sanaya Irani Zohrabi as the associate producer. Natkhat has an authentic and distinctive approach toward the problems rooting from a patriarchy driven system.