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More than just a hug

Are there any ground rules or preferred positions? Do you have a safe word?” actor Eisha Chopra, who plays Riya, a sceptical documentary filmmaker in the short Call Him Eddy, asks Sanjay Suri, a professional cuddler called Edith. As they sit together “companioning”, Edith or Eddy, tells her, “I don’t kiss anyone. No problems with touching and cuddling. It’s affection, without saying anything. If you allow yourself, it’s magic.”

As we complete six months of living in isolation, Eddy’s words make us wonder when was the last time we hugged a friend? Would it be okay to hug our mother at the airport after a year-long gap? But director Sanjeev Vig or Suri had obviously not seen the all-isolating pandemic coming, when they started working on the short, presented by Royal Stag Barrel Select Large Short Films. “When we started shooting last year, we were thinking that nowadays, we’re all so consumed by virtual relationships that we’re losing out on real ones, or emotional proximity,” Suri tells us, adding that it’s ironic that the short released amid these bleak times. Apart from virtual distractions, Vig shares that through Eddy’s character, he also wanted to address the lack of human communication and intimacy. “Fortunately, the pandemic has made us realise the value of touch,” he notes.

Suri and Eisha Chopra share a laugh behind the scenes
Suri and Eisha Chopra share a laugh behind the scenes

The 20-minute short plays out in the outskirts of Bengaluru, where Riya goes to interview Eddy, who provides cuddle therapy. Convinced it’s a fun way to make money, she probes the former media mogul about the legal implications and his wife’s knowledge about his profession. Yet, she agrees to try out the therapy, only to break down and reveal scars of a traumatic past. And Eddy? While he’s always up for a hug, we get a glimpse of why he’s learnt to value human touch.

Layered with themes of emotional intimacy, affection, communication, love and loss, the film is more than just about the power of a hug. “Having experienced a void, Eddy understands the value of what matters the most — being in the present and expressing feelings for our loved ones,” Suri elaborates, revealing that acceptance, surrendering and letting go are weaved into Eddy’s character, and the life of any person like him.

Sanjeev Vig
Sanjeev Vig

Shot in soothing shades of greens, whites and blues, the film is like a warm hug in itself, and lends to the initial tension and the reconciliation between Riya and Eddy. “Chopra and Suri met directly on the set. They didn’t rehearse beforehand, and that’s possibly why their chemistry is so organic,” Vig shares.

When we ask the duo if they met a professional cuddler, Vig quips, “It’s him [Suri]! When I was discussing the script with him and hearing his advice, I realised I have found the real cuddler.”

The warm, smiling and patient Eddy has thus found many takers, we’re told, with people ringing up Vig to book appointments. Recollecting one particular instance, Suri tells us there was a girl who watched the film while waiting for her relative who was in the ICU, and messaged him. Vig adds that students across India have been starting Eddy therapy groups. “A hug has the energy to calm you down. It is your hi and it’s also your bye. When you see a film or read a book, something changes inside you. That has happened with this short film, and we hope people don’t forget it soon,” the actor signs off.

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