The sheer sense of relief that is palpable on the curly haired boy’s face when he uses a razor to cut open his wrist, speaks volumes. There are several such scenes in Kaasav, the National Award-winning film. In fact, the storyline progresses with the interminable silence looming over the busy Mumbai’s local railway network and later over the Konkan coastline.
The curly haired boy (Alok Rajwade) is called Niche, by Janaki (Irawati Harshe) who finds him burning with fever on the roadside. Something about his state of mind connects with Janaki, a researcher, who also suffers from panic attacks.
In the process of sifting through her emotions, and trying to put herself in his shoes, she attempts to establish a tenuous bond with Niche. But the lad rebuffs her overtures. And, thus begins our involvement with Niche — who comes across as an ungrateful brat with pseudo-angst up his sleeve. A regular youth, who has it all, and is yet ‘lost’, inviting derision from the ‘sorted’ folk. What is his problem? What reason does he have to complain? Why is he angry? Such questions crowd our mind until we find Niche. That moment is when Niche (who is actually named Maanavendra/Manav) finally opens his mouth to sing. His free spirited joyous cry reaches the skies, alongwith Janaki’s softer tone. The shell cracks open a tiny bit.
There is also a parallel track in which Janaki and Dattabhau (Dr Agashe) are working on olive ridley sea turtle conservation project. The mothers leave behind the eggs on the shore, wading into the waters, hoping that the baby turtles too find their feet in the water. The two, alongwith the villagers, try to provide a safe, nesting spot. Just like Janaki does for Niche, and Niche does for a village urchin. A little warmth and empathy is all that we require.
Without making it ‘pedantic, research-worthy film on depression’, Bhave, Sukthankar and Agashe invite us to ‘crack open the shell’ for ourselves and for others. There is darkness within us and around us. It’s time we stopped being afraid of it.
- Ambika Shaligram