When you are young you do not think of death. We feel life is eternal, at least in school and think death is what happens to old people. My aunt had committed suicide when I was ten years old. Till date I have never been able to find out a reason as to why she did it, many people have many theories regarding that but none has satisfied me so far. Not a day goes by in the last 15 years where I wish I could have saved her, somehow I have never accepted her death.
Some people say her soul might be in hell, some say her soul is in between- somewhere near earth and God. This is hardly satisfying for someone like me who tends to take the idea of God, heaven and hell with a pinch of salt. I always wish if we could have somehow prevented her death. I generally avoid films which deal with suicide theme, because it brings back bad memories. Similarly I was delaying watching Srijit Mukherji’s Hemlock Society for the same reason. However finally I watched it this week.
Like all Srijit films this also begins with a song and we see Meghana Sarkar (Koel Mallick) enjoying a Siddhartha Roy show. It is so good to see a female in an Indian movie depicted going out alone, otherwise in Bollywood you always see our heroines surrounded by 2-3 extra till she falls in love with the hero. Meghana is your girl next door and as I have mentioned in my earlier reviews of Srijit’s films what makes his film special is the conversation between his actors, the dialogues give us more insight to the characters. It does not appear like the characters are mouthing words of wisdom, for instance in a scene Meghana while speaking to her colleague she says no matter how a women dresses men will behave like dogs when they see anything remotely female.
Meghana is on the verge of losing her job and her marriage with boyfriend of 14 years has been called off. Her relationship with her father is not exactly what it should be, and she hates her step mother. Enter Ananda Kar (Parambrata Chatterjee) who runs Hemlock Society which helps people in committing suicide, he tells Meghana that he runs a school which offers a 3 day course after which she can commit suicide.
In a chilling and visual brilliantly scene Meghana meets a girl child who is forced into prostitution, the way Srijit uses imagery in this scene is one of the high points of the film. In another brilliant scene Srijit addresses how even if we are successful,famous and wealthy we will always have problems, have the insecurity of failure and pain will be always part of life.
We do also see other trademark scenes like those of characters standing in a terrace and looking at the city, it is as if these characters are not part of the city in spite of being in the city. Then we have scenes of shoes, here we see Meghana and her fiancé break up, a similar scene is there in Jaatishwar when Jishu meets Swastika after a long time when he comes to India, Then the reference of Kabir Suman and Tagore in a conversation is something you can’t miss.
Although Srijit generally mocks Bollywood clichés in all his films, this is a film which is rooted in Bollywood, due to its setting itself in fantasy land, The name of the hero itself is a tribute to one of the best Hindi films all time, Anand. When Anand mentions perfect life to Meghana it includes singing a Hindi song in Venice like Amitabh did in The Great Gambler.
Parambrata Chatterjee carries the film on his shoulders, this is a character which does not have a backstory for a major part of the movie. We do not know what are his intentions, he sings Bollywood songs and acts like a Bollywood hero, but Parambrata handles the role with ease and panache, and most importantly we empathize with his character and do not sympathize with situation.
Credit be given to prolific Bengali filmmaker Srijit for he has handled different genres in all his films. To take this grim subject of suicide and make it light hearted is not easy at all. Usually this is a subject which we as Indians do not tend to talk about in our living rooms as we tend to ignore difficult topics like suicide or sex education for that matter.Srijit with this film sends across the message as to how important it is to talk about suicide and help people with suicidal tendencies instead of blaming them as cowards. Let us accept people for who they are, and let us not ask people to behave in some way just because we think it is the right way. Let us make a society in which people will love life and not death.