“Truth always stems from awareness. Where there is no awareness there is no truth.” This monologue is a seed to the critically acclaimed Marathi drama film “Astu (So be it).” The thought provoking film is about dementia, specifically Alzheimer’s disease directed by Sumitra Bhave and Sunil Sukhtankar. Astu takes the audience to the incurable neurologic disease passing through the landmarks of emotions, difficulties of the victim and the family and the social outlook towards the disease. The actor in lead role, Mohan Agashe, who is shown as an Alzheimer’s patient in the film, has done complete justice to the role.
The passionate actor and a psychiatrist by profession, Mohan Agashe visited Panjab University on the 12th of August. On the very day, he re-launched the 70 MM film club of School of Communication Studies (SCS) with the screening of his film “Astu (So be it)” followed by an interaction session at Dr. S.S. Bhatnagar Hall, UICET. The 70 MM club of SCS department has taken an initiative to rock the cradle of meaningful and parallel cinema. On this ascertainment, they showed the film that not only talks about a disease and the victim, but also in a side stream, the film stretches its hands to the multiple dimensions of the Indian society. This film juxtaposes the rich and the poor, the God-like and the child-like, the reality and its perception in many forms. The plot of the film maintains the unity of action as the film starts when in the morning Appa steps out of the his daughter’s car and goes missing enticed to an elephant, Gaja on the way. The movie ends when in the evening Appa is found by the police. But, it is not only the family who found Appa in the closing loop of the screenplay. The audience too found the real meaning of enlightenment and knowledge in a long journey with Appa, Gaja and his mahout.
The film portrays a well learned scholar of ancient scriptures, Appa who in his mental well being believed that he had attained knowledge remaining close to Dharma, the Vedas and Indian mythology. But his real enlightenment started when he accidentally got off the car and followed Gaja. He experienced the life of a sage, all that he had been reading in his entire life in one day. He ate whatever was offered to him, shared his food, clothes and happiness with a poor nomadic family, maintaining the tranquility and bliss of his soul. He found the real nurture in nature, found Godliness in simplicity and purity of heart and mind. By the end of the film, the Alzheimer’s patient (in medical terms) and a child and a sage (in spiritual sense) found the real meaning of “truth”, existence of life and his “awareness” of spirituality through nature and humanity.
All these themes were touched upon by actor and Dr. Mohan Agashe in the panel discussion after the screening of the film. The other panelists in the discussion were: Dr. Sanjay Wadwalkar, a Professor in SCS department, Dr. Pushpinder Syal, a Professor in the Department of English and Cultural Studies and Dr. Navdeep Kaur, Chairperson of the Department of Indian Theatre, all from Panjab University.
In the discussion, Mohan Agashe talked about the “quality and longevity of life” that the medical science has provided. On being asked about the contrast made by the psychological aspect of the Alzheimer’s disease with that of the victim’s emotions in the film, he said, “the cognition is a slave of the attitude.” He further added that medically detecting the problem is one part and the care and support of the family to such patients is another. Both have to go parallel in co-operation but without trespassing each other. The other panelist, Dr. Pushpinder Syal, said that there were two things attached to such patients: “First is the loss of the memory and other is the burden of the memory.” Losing memory can be perceived as a lost treasure or even as a blissful meditation to the mind. Whereas a memory can be a burden or a suffering on its own. She concluded by saying that it all depends upon the perception and the circumstances around the people. The discussion hour further brought to the fore the issues of dementia, human behaviour and other perspectives of the film.
One important reason to screen this National award winning film was to highlight the importance of the parallel cinema contrary to the mainstream cinema and the educational purposes attached to it. As a corollary to this, Mohan Agashe stated that the film makers, the cast and the crew “smuggles education by showing such films.”
About The Auhtor
A curious and enthusiastic person.
A learner who loves to nourish her soul with all forms of art and aesthetics.