Memories in March; handled with care

It’s been quite some time since I posted something apart from reviews that get published in dailies, so thought of posting something that’s out of my KRA.

If you see, in Indian cinema, there are very few instances where you’ll see a woman playing the role of the main protagonist. The very beginning of this movie will take you back to the days of Mahesh Bhatt’s rising…the film Saaransh, the movie which had announced the arrival of a powerful actor, Anupam Kher. The character that Kher played, rushes to government officials in order to collect the remains of his deceased son. The film unfolds with the ensuing events and till date Saaransh happens to be one of the most profound sensitive films from the stable of Bollywood.

Rituparno Ghosh and Deepti Naval in a still from the movie Memories in March

Memories of March, also gives you the impression of the same (at times) when Deepti Naval rushes to Calcutta to collect the remains of her son who died in an accident, but she ends up with a collection of memories relating to the days her son spent with his lover, Rituparno Ghosh and his colleague, Raima Sen. The truth of her son being a ‘gay’ produces a different shade and brings the film onto a very touchy and ‘not-experienced-before’ platform.

More importantly, she comes face to face with a facet of her son’s personality which she finds hard to accept…. But only, initially!

In the recent times, alternate sexuality probably is becoming a popular theme in Indian cinema, but most of the films dealing with this controversial topic lacks sensitivity and choose to dwell on it, either in a comic vein or in a shock-and-awe tenor.

But the film takes the subject of homosexuality as a normal fact of life, of course, with the initial shock that a conventional mom, Deepti Naval, goes through, the hurt displayed when she learns of her son’s preference for the bald Rituparno Ghosh over the pretty Raima Sen, but the total situation is handled carefully and without being too loud. Deepti’s attitude towards Rituparno changes from friendliness to resentment when she learns of the special bond he shared with her departed son; like all conventional mothers, she wishes she had known about her son’s sexual preferences before, so that she could have consulted her psychiatrist friends and other professionals!

Gently and subtly, the change occurs and the grieving mother discovers a warm and sensitive person in her son’s companion. Shared dinners, shared memories, shared grief, poignant revelations, a bit of poetry and prolonged silences create a bond between the mother and her son’s friends (Rituparno, the lover and Raima, the girl who loved him) that may not fill the gaping void, but it does help to roll the pebble of life down the grassy knoll once again.

The film harbors a touchy writing of Rituparno Ghosh, a totally low-key, under-played and naturalistic directorial style by the debutant Sanjoy Nag and some stupendous performances by the three protagonists of this film, specially Rituparno Ghosh who is a treat to watch with his nuanced act of a lover who tries to bravely cope with loss and longing and at the same time face his lover’s mother with a brave face, telling her that “there is no harm in being gay”. The narrative’s structure and its journey from crisis to reconciliation is so tentative that you wonder if this moving portrait of a mother coming-to-terms with her son’s death and dark secret about his sexuality doesn’t lose out on something vital in its effort to imbue a cosmopolitan hue to the emotions.

Having said this, the detailing of the emotions and the nuances inherent in the ambience cannot be faulted. The film creates a scintillating synthesis of suburban sounds and the intangible sound of hearts shattered by unforeseen tragedy. Incidental sounds, such as children running down the stairs of the dead son’s apartment block, or the old-fashioned rickety lift creaking to a start at a decisive moment in the plot, lend a workaday grace to the poignant proceedings.

The background music of the film is good and the Cinematography by Soumik Haldar is outstanding, especially the scenes where more of natural light has been used and shade has been used in abundance to bring out a distinct flavour which is all through the film, weaving through each strand of the film’s thread like ‘mud in water’.

The film is a ball of impenetrable anguish that implodes once in while. When it does, the little shards of pain and hurt pierce your soul. The bond between two unlikely mourners, who become one in their collective grief, remains with you long after the last shot of a fish tank lying bereft and a voice message unattended after an irreversible tragedy. The excellence grows further as it manages at building individual moments of crisis and catharsis between characters during a time that’s stressful beyond imagination for all concerned.

Memories in March is a must watch and a super sensitive film, which has been handled with absolute precision. If you enjoy cinema that provides emotional catharsis, this one is for you.

Ratings: 3.5 / 5

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