Watching Gitanjali Rao’s Tomorrow My Love (2021) is like watching an iceberg of complex emotions and states-of-mind about life, death, and the sense of goodbyes.
The pandemic was (or, still is) a tough experience. The sense of death came close to us. If we did not think of it each day before, the pandemic made it immediate. We lived in its shadows, watching each step we take, instantly aware of others around us. The relationship with the other became an imperative. Our lives and indeed, the ends of our lives, were intricately dependent on those of others. It is not easy to summarize how each one of us went through this experience.
In her latest short, Rao brings back two characters we met in her Printed Rainbow (2018), a marvel of a short she showed at IFFLA in 2018. The woman is in a hospital bed, and her lifelong companion comes by to spend a day outside her hospital window, accompanied by their dog and a cat. They are separated by a wall, yet intimately connected across it. As time moves, so do the shadows. And, as the cycle of the day moves on, so does the moment of finality. It is a surprisingly short film, and one of the best I have seen made about and during the pandemic and the lockdowns. What it points to, with its exquisitely serene and beautiful images, is the labyrinth that is underneath the images and sounds on the screen.
The images are in charcoal black-and-white, sensitive to movement and the light. There is a calmness to the composition. We are on the side of the sun, so the shadows speak to us as figures in light. Our view is that of looking into the hospital bed of the woman. When the man comes in, he brings a rose, and their dog and cat from home. The sources of warmth and love for the woman are here with him. The pets stay calmly with the man sitting on the bench. They seem to be entirely aware of the purpose of the visit.
Dinah Washington’s “What a difference a Day makes” fills the frame; it is the day of connection, of being together, and feeling apart. It is a precious day, a day of the family on this earth. The song and the music make the connection between them as much as the movement of the shadows commanded by the sun. When all sorts of contacts were forbidden, the shadows acquire sentient quality. Rao gives power to the images along with the immeasurable depth to the sound. One can think of this as a sad moment, for yet another day could make the difference, between this or that side of life. But it is a moment of reflection, of togetherness, of life spent together in such proximity where gestures speak more than words or sounds. In such a short time, Gitanjali Rao guides us to and through the layers of memory, life, tragedy, and the bonds that keep us together, in flesh or in spirits.
Her consistent sound team, PM Sateesh and Manoj M. Goswami lift up the image to its eloquence. The blend of shadows of the day passing and the filling of song in the frame are lovely moments to behold. It is the unity of all elements of cinema that make for a superb work. That a 4-minute animation could speak for our collective experience so succinctly makes this a tribute to the talents of Rao and her team!