[Part of Curator’s Corner, a section dedicated to showcasing work of emerging and marginal filmmakers. See here for details.]

Formally trained in cinematography, 28-year-old Agrima (aka Ajrul) is an independent filmmaker from Karnal, Haryana, in Northern India. Besides smaller exercise films, Agrima has made two shorts so far — 2019’s Jee Ka Janjaal: The Prominence of the Unseen and 2021’s Cocrunda 0.5mg (TV iv OTT) — both of which seem to me to be concentrated explorations of feelings of disgust and repulsion; the bibhatsa rasa as Indian aesthetic theory has it. They are both highly subjective works reflecting psychological states dominated by these sentiments. Disorder, decrepit rooms, dead and decaying animals, leftover food, bodily emanations, diseases, caustic colours, high-strung sound effects are some of the prominent elements of the films.

Agrima recalls having watched Emir Kusturica’s Underground (1995) and Black Cat, White Cat (1998) as a child. “I remember I was really fascinated by how deeply chaotic it was,” she adds. Viewing theatrical and film adaptations of Ghashiram Kotwal and Oedipus Rex one after the other while a student of English literature in New Delhi initiated her into a more formal understanding of the two mediums. Further influences came in the form of John Carpenter’s They Live (1988), Harmony Korine’s Gummo (1997), Pankaj Advani’s Urf Professor (2001) and, most importantly, Sion Sono’s Love Exposure (2008).

The seven-minute Jee Ka Janjaal was a direction assignment at film school. “I was still inexperienced to instruct a crew,” says Agrima. “So I ended up doing almost everything myself.” The film begins like a parody of true-crime TV shows, with the camera hovering over a disorderly, nearly unlivable hostel room – a veritable compendium of aforesaid elements. The protagonist (Snigdha) is seated deflated on the floor, surrounded by lizards, a lit cigarette dangling from her mouth. She is sweaty, her breath short and rapid, like that of a reptile. Shortly after, a mute “lizard man” (Varshney) creeps over her on a couch, running his hands under her clothes, causing her to throw up. Unable to confront him, she watches the man defile a doll and suddenly finds herself afflicted with mysterious skin lesions. Her trip to the hospital, however, proves even more traumatic.

Jee Ka Janjaal is ostensibly a personal work born of a sense of vulnerability. “At film school, I was for the longest time feeling isolated,” notes Agrima. “I also had some strife with how things were going on at the school. So I isolated myself. After living alone for a long time with just lizards in my room, I somehow came up with this afternoon reverie of a girl who was thinking of disgust in terms of body fluids, men, sexual activity and all of those things.” A sense of loathing pervades Jee Ka Janjaal, but it is primarily located in male bodies—the lizard man, the doctor’s bobbing Adam’s apple, the compounder’s unusual features—which gives a pointedly sexual dimension to the protagonist’s revulsion.

Cocrunda, in that regard, exercises greater control over its material, sublimating the feeling of repulsion in bodily humour. The threat of contamination is generalized, scattered across characters in this film, which features two oddball schoolteachers and their preteen vlogger daughter named Ozu (G. Maa Hei). In fact, this home-movie turned psychedelic-comedy opens with an exogenous menace. After Romanchitt (V. Armaan), the dubious newspaper guy, gives brash, unsolicited feedback on Ozu’s recent video, we see him lick the day’s edition and toss it into Ozu’s home. This original, biological and psychological invasion of the household gives rise to a series of others: a cockroach that slithers up the kitchen table, the pills that Mother keeps swallowing, the marundas, or sweet rice balls, that Father chomps down despite his diabetes and finally the TV news that suffuses the air with manufactured emergencies.

As her parents go through their routine in a drug-fuelled haze, Ozu films them with her phone camera, turning her life into the film we are watching. Ozu herself is on medication for her mood swings, which may partly explain the distorted nature of the events we see in the film, shot from up close in a warped perspective. A standoff eventually ensues between the three family members, each blackmailing the other with withdrawal of their preferred poison. “Everybody in the film is my family, except for the little girl,” says Agrima. “This is the second time I’ve shot this film. I shot the first version with a niece of mine. She abandoned the film after three days because of the cockroaches. So I had to audition for the role of the girl.”

Queasy-making and possibly anxiety-inducing, Cocrunda obliquely taps into the amorphous dread of life under lockdown in its evocation of different kinds of contamination: viral infection, food poisoning, drug overdose, invasive surgery, media manipulation and the danger of a young girl ‘exposing’ herself to the world through her videos. Instead of locating this dread in particular objects and people, Cocrunda displaces it from one tactile image to the next, thanks to an unnerving chain of subconscious associations: a dead rat, Romanchitt licking the newspaper, Father turning the pages of the said newspaper by licking his fingers; Mother using a pest repellent to protect Ozu, who crushes her tablets to make them look like the pest repellent, which in turn comes to look like cocaine; Father eating marundas, an organ extraction that resembles pest control, Father eating parathas and so on. Given that several of these images involve oral ingestion of some kind, Cocrunda has the power to induce a visceral response in the viewer. Judge for yourself!



Agrima, 28, is an independent short film director, a trained cinematographer and a mixed-media visual artist from Karnal, Haryana. She has done her Masters of English Literature course from Miranda House, Delhi University, and a Post-Graduate Diploma in Film and Digital Cinematography from Satyajit Ray Film and Television Institute, Kolkata. Having fashioned her sensibilities through a diverse range of media, her approach to filmmaking is utterly interdisciplinary. Her formal preoccupations with language, literature and cinema, her spiritual connections to what is considered ‘trash’ for most archives and her phenomeno-political understanding of the world are important to her filmmaking.


agrima1445[at]gmail[dot]com | Instagram


  • (it)Selfie, 2018, 4 min., digital
  • Tumi Keno Chole Gele Debanjan, 2018, 2 min., digital
  • Jee ka Janjaal: The Prominence of the Unseen, 2019, 7 min., digital
  • Cocrunda 0.5mg (TV iv OTT), 2021, 10 min., digital
  • Chronicles of Kanchan and Yunga, 2022, 2:06 min., film


Cocrunda 0.5mg (TV iv OTT) (2021)

Jee ka Janjaal: The Prominence of the Unseen (2019)