Mumbai, 05 Oct 2017 9:00 IST
Sumitra Bhave and Sunil Sukthankar's wonderful film delves into the loneliness and struggle of the modern human through a nuanced, sensitive tale.
Waking up in the middle of the night, profusely sweating in a panic attack, Janaki Kulkarni reminds herself to breathe. It is a simple, but profound moment that symbolises the struggle of anyone who has ever battled depression. This simplicity of expression and effective narration defines Sunil Sukthankar and Sumitra Bhave's 2016 National award winning Kaasav.
The film truly begins when Janaki Kulkarni (Iravati Harshe) finds a lost teenager, Manav (Alok Rajawade) on her way to Goa. Janaki is a recovering depressive herself, while Manav has already attempted suicide once before. Janaki takes Manav to Goa, where she is assisting her friend, Dattabhau (Mohan Agashe) in the conservation of Olive Ridley turtles.
Soon, Manav becomes her own conservation project. As she allows the young poet a space to explore, and understand his own fears, she discovers a friend and a fellow sufferer. In this journey to self-exploration, the two victims find an escape from the crowded world around them.
An attempt to contain this film into a plot description would be unfair, and impossible. The director duo have an impeccable track record of sensitive films from 1995, and have recently brought forth masterpieces like Devrai (2004) and Astu! (2014). Kaasav is a worthy addition to the list. The directors have treated the subject sensitively, without being nonchalant. The script eschews any melodrama in its depiction of loneliness and depression.
Dhananjay Kulkarni's camera contrasts the open spaces of nature with the internal conflict of the characters, without feeling intrusive. The music by Sanket Kanetkar is another wonderful trinket that breezes through the screenplay adding an emotional undercurrent.
While the story and screenplay are praiseworthy, it is the acting that delivers the maximum impact. Iravati Harshe is terrific as the vulnerable, yet strong Janaki Kulkarni. She is met toe-to-toe by Alok Rajawade, who succeeds as the raging, confused Manav. His vulnerability is as good as his moments of helpless rage.
There is also due credit to be given to the supporting cast of Yadu and Parshu, the other side of the depression spectrum. Yadu and Parshu go about life with a levity that invokes envy and admiration. The street orphan Parshu's act of caring for another abandoned old man is a contrast to Manav's attempts to escape his own world. It is through his unlikely friendship with Parshu, that Manav discovers a new side to himself.
Veteran Mohan Agashe, who is also the producer of the film, brings in a comforting presence. The actor is also a trained psychologist, and his strong hand in psychiatry shows in the film's storyline.
Above all, Kaasav is to be admired as a film that elaborates on the loneliness that fatigues people in a densely connected social media universe.
The sense of needing to disconnect, while simultaneously experiencing the fear of losing touch is wonderfully elaborated. The film feels like a comforting touch; neither preachy, nor medicinal or objective, but comforting all the same. Bhave-Sukthankar allow the story to move briskly with minimal dialogues, allowing the beautiful imagery to speak for itself.
In an age when cinema continues to struggle in depicting the complexity of the human mind, Kaasav deals with a complex subject with utmost sincerity and sensitivity. It is this treatment that makes this film worthy of the accolades it has received.