“If you could look into my eyes you would witness my soul missing you”
There is a fascinating mystique surrounding Kevin K. Shah’s short film Dust Request: A Last Will and Testament that only bolsters the powerful hold its visuals possess. Listed as a documentary on IMDB.com and credited as starring Surya Chandra and her late husband Arjun, its personal account of a deceased man’s last wish can’t help but speak towards your humanity. The film’s only words come from an intimate recording Arjun left for his wife to hear two years after his death, giving her time to grieve and ready for this last journey together. Rather than become an obligation from beyond the grave, the request for Surya to scatter her husband’s ashes on South Island, New Zealand is instead a final, mutual declaration of love.
The wish explains that Surya’s solitary travels to where they once shared a moment in life will result in his appearance through a vision to give the farewell he wasn’t able to before. We watch as she solemnly moves forward along the ocean banks and giant boulders, stopping to pray, remember, and not feel alone. What’s left of Arjun remains close within the wooden box serving as his urn carried to spread ashes along the path—his physical body close as his spiritual one lingers forever by her heart. And as the footage shifts from a third person view of Surya walking the shores to an alternate blue-tinted ethereal sheen closer up, we understand the artistic flourish to be portraying this fact.
Shot carefully from afar so as not to disrupt the emotions stirring within Surya, the majority of the film places us as a fly on the wall witnessing love’s immortality. We catch the imagery of gorgeous mountainsides and overcast clouds rolling over the horizon, but ultimately can’t look away from the woman currently residing in this beautiful place for what lives beneath its surface. Each grain of sand, piece of rock, droplet of water—they all hold a deeper meaning than simple definition. There is a priceless spiritual value to each seemingly common fixture for the Chandras now, a lasting memory full of life that will survive long after they are both gone.
And just as this otherworldly idea of a separate plane is thought, so too does Shah begin juxtaposing the aforementioned bluish hues in the viewpoint of Arjun’s soul following behind her. In a final, magnificently cut sequence of these moments speeding up and slowing down to the music of R. Carlos Nakai, we fully comprehend the themes at play to feel the warmth of believing all those past remain to look down on us throughout our lives. Arjun doesn’t have to be seen in order to know he’s there; wherever Surya goes he will follow. The scattering of his ashes along South Island is merely the action to prove he has stayed with her and not the remains she has just dispensed.
A touching portrait of enduring love, only the question of Surya going against Arjun’s wishes by bringing a camera crew along gives pause. Rather than become an inauthentic depiction of reality, however, a short documentary exist to shed light on Shah’s impetus for filming. In it we learn his wife portrayed the fictional character of Surya while Hash Patel voiced Arjun. What we blindly accepted as truth was merely a manufactured façade to ensure the full weight of the spirituality at work was felt. Dust Request becomes a story to make us believe in love after death by pushing the boundaries of truth and artifice. And knowing it’s secret doesn’t have to diminish what you felt while watching.