Short Film: ‘Chai’ Brings India Together for a Hot Cup of Tea

Short Film of the Day

Why Watch? Tea is delicious. Granted, you can’t actually taste any of it through your computer screen, but never mind that. Chai is a documentary that ties together the experiences of four people working in tea shops all over India, from Kerala to Mumbai. One is an old man who has been making tea for years, and has watched the rapid and sprawling growth of India’s cities since the beginning. The others are quite young, from a boy of ten working in Mumbai to a girl of 18 who fled her village on the night of her arranged wedding. The last is a young man in Kerala, who came south from Kashmir to escape from the police. All four are selling tea far from the place of their birth, this national beverage becoming a metaphor of sorts for a whirlwind of internal migration.

As for the film around these characters, director Gitanjali Rao has woven them together with a handful of interesting cinematic ideas. Tea itself is front and center, of course, but Rao is careful to at least hint at the wide variety of preparation techniques used in India. He also brings in some surprising but perfectly integrated animation to paint the past lives of his subjects, vividly recreating their journeys from the village to the metropolis. Yet their real-life faces are never featured. The intent seems to be a blending of their stories into a single, national cup of chai.

Chai is one of the five “India Is” films released this week by the Indian government’s Ministry of External Affairs, co-produced by Viacom 18. Check out the other four at the YouTube channel for the series.

What Will It Cost? Just over 11 minutes.

Keep Watching Short Films

Daniel Walber is a freelance critic living in Brooklyn. He holds a MA in cinema studies from New York University, loves any movie under 80 minutes, and is gay for Bette Davis.

Read More from Daniel Walber
Get Film School Rejects in your email. All the cool kids are doing it:
Previous Article
Next Article
Reject Nation
Leave a comment
Comment Policy: No hate speech allowed. If you must argue, please debate intelligently. Comments containing selected keywords or outbound links will be put into moderation to help prevent spam. Film School Rejects reserves the right to delete comments and ban anyone who doesn't follow the rules. We also reserve the right to modify any curse words in your comments and make you look like an idiot. Thank You!