Karma Code (2011) – By Philip Smolen

Manu (RonDavid Raj) is a young Indian computer programmer who is getting ready to leave his country for a lucrative career in the United States. A bully and criminal when he was younger, Manu has overcome his past with the help of his friend Reghu (Rifaye Shahib) who has managed to keep Manu on the straight and narrow for the past two years. Going to a local bar to celebrate his impending good fortune, Manu and Reghu are shocked when three of the men who Manu tormented earlier in his life enter the bar and stare angrily at them. Can the new Manu overcome the feelings of shame and anger boiling up inside of him, or will seeing these three lead to a vicious new round of violence?

“Karma Code” is a new nine-minute short film from director Vinod Bharathan. He plays with the idea of perception vs. reality and with the Hindu idea of Karma – the belief that every act done by an individual (whether good or evil) will be returned to that individual in kind. Have Manu’s past indiscretions come back to haunt him just as he is on the verge of starting his new life? Or is he merely imagining that those he has wronged have come to exact their revenge? Or does Manu feel that he needs to be punished for his crimes?

Bharathan doesn’t give you an exact answer, but the film may be saying that forgiveness in life is the way to go. However, Bharathan never establishes if Manu is worthy of forgiveness. In a nine minute film, his true character can only be hinted at, which to my Western sensibilities is somewhat frustrating. He’s an interesting character and I want to know more about Manu. Not enough happens in the nine minutes. “Karma Code” needs a stronger story arc as well as a climax. As is, it feels more like a trailer.

Bharathan coolly wraps his film in gorgeous color photography by Shyju Khalid and an evocative music score by Michael Kristensen. “Karma Code” is an appealing, reflective short that has a lot of untapped potential and leaves you with more questions than answers. I believe that if it was fleshed out to at least 30 minutes, it would lead to a much more satisfying movie-going experience.

For more information on “Karma Code”, please go to: http://www.fookdat.org/karma-code

For more information on Vinod Bharathan, please visit: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm3250521