Directed by Sunil Sukthankar and Sumitra Bhave, Kaasav/The Turtle engages with the issue of mental health through the experiences of a suicidal young man struggling with depression.
Janaki (Irawati Harshe) offers shelter to a young man lying by the side of the road in an unconscious state. Despite having no relationship with him, she is determined to help him, even as those around her vehemently discourage her from doing so.Advertisement
Employing the metaphor of the Olive Ridley turtles that lay eggs on the sea shore and then leave their young ones to find their way to the sea, Kaasav explores the relationship between Janaki and Maanav/Niche (Alok Rajwade), as she nurtures him, while dealing with her own emotional turmoil.
The film is as much about Maanav/Niche’s struggle, as it is about Janaki’s determination and patient care. She lets him be, allowing him to come out of his shell slowly and appreciate life.
The story and remarkable footage of the Olive Ridley turtles adds another dimension to the poignant film as it stresses on environmental issues and the need to protect this ancient species. In the end, the film offers no solutions, just possibilities, which steer it away from being a didactic film with a heavy-handed social message.
The poised performance of Harshe eases us into Janaki’s world and choices. As a Good Samaritan, Janaki is never moralistic or even judgemental. Maanav/Niche’s inner turmoil and dejection are palpable as is his coming out of his cocoon with the help of his friend Parshu, a tea-seller, and the slow, hesitant relationships he builds with driver Yadu and others around him, enabling him to engage with the community.
In an interactive session after the screening of the film at the Habitat Film Festival, Dr Mohan Agashe who is the co-producer of the film and has also played a small role in it; was asked about the difficulty in making socially conscious and relevant films. He replied that while his first film as a producer, Astu, left him bereft of his life savings, he enjoyed the experience and so decided to co-produce Kaasav.
Talking about the issue of mental health, he stressed on the need for education to encompass emotional awareness as the current system is over-enthusiastic about diagnosis and analysis. Instead, he said, “We should learn to listen”.
The film won the 2017 National Award for Best Film.