In poor areas of rural India, large numbers of villagers—most of them young men—are leaving their homes to look for work in big cities. Many of them disappear into the anonymity of city life, leaving their families to wonder what became of them.
For the people left behind, the sense of loss remains huge even many years later. Absence is a cinematic portrayal of the grief, agony and anguish of separation that is expressed with the Hindi word birha. In a faraway village, missing people, mothers and tired lovers yearn to see beyond the mist. They meet each other in impenetrable silences and endless mourning. They curse the moon for witnessing their insomnia.
Guided by Shiv Kumar Batalvi’s birha poetry, the film captures the pain, lamentation and yearning caused by separation. The locations are not marked, characters are not named. Absence situates itself in a season of waiting and a climate of uncertainty, where only a loud screech can measure the distance between loved ones.