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Why Marathi short film Still Alive, screened at 51st IFFI, is a timely take on mental health

This week Hindi-film actor Sushant Singh Rajput would have turned 35 had he been alive. Last yr, bang in the midst of the pandemic-induced lockdown, the information of Rajput’s suicide gripped and divided a nation debating, sadly, not on mental health however on malicious speculations of drug abuse and even homicide. The nation nonetheless lives in denial relating to speaking about and treating despair. The World Health Organization in 2019 estimated that 7.5 per cent of 1.three billion Indians undergo from some type of mental dysfunction and that the financial loss on account of mental-health situations, between 2012-30, will probably be round $1.03 trillion.

Around that point, in June, a younger boy from Mumbai’s Borivali, Onkar Diwadkar, accomplished his second short film, on depression. The timing was coincidental. That film, Still Alive, was screened within the non-feature class within the Indian Panorama part at the continued 51st International Film Festival of India (IFFI) in Goa. Last week, it screened at 26th Kolkata International Film Festival, the place earlier his first short film, the Dilip Prabhavalkar-starrer Mrugajal – In the Land of Mirage (2019), had travelled to, too.

Like the Iravati Harshe-starrer and actor-psychiatrist Mohan Agashe-produced 2017 Kaasav (Turtle), Diwadkar’s short is yet one more film to return out of Maharashtra on the topic. According to the “2018 Accidental Deaths and Suicides in India” report, launched by the National Crime Records Bureau in December 2019, Maharashtra registered the very best numbers of suicide incidents at 17,972, whereas the nation witnessed 1.34 lakh incidents (a spike from 1.29 lakh in 2017), i.e., about 369 individuals each 16 hours took their life.

“People all around are going through emotional turmoil. Everyone, every day. But how many of us go to a psychologist or therapist?” asks Diwadkar, 24, including, “As a filmmaker, I need to ask the right questions, the audience will decode the rest. Cinema is made up of real life, and, so, it must be an experience, not just to convey the content.” The whole film is a 30-minute-long single-take, shot in two days, on windy, stormy evenings, utilizing jimmy-jib digital camera, pure mild and sync sound, in Maharashtra’s Sagareshwar seaside in Vengurla.

In the film, protagonist Meera’s boyfriend of 5 years breaks up together with her. She drives to an empty seaside and tries reasoning with him over phone calls. Her mother calls to learn about her whereabouts, senses the strain in her voice, and though Meera yearns to speak to somebody, she is aware of her mother isn’t that particular person. Meera dials a mental-health helpline, and whereas they construct a rapport – for she rings them up once more – and listen to her out compassionately, Meera is frantic as a result of she seeks a quick-fix, an instantaneous problem-solving. Hopeless and emotionally spent, discovering herself at a lifeless finish, and whereas nonetheless uncertain, she walks into the ocean, which throws her out, giving her a second probability at life. As it begins to drizzle, Meera smiles and hums Que sera sera and retreats.

As a filmmaker, I must ask the suitable questions, the viewers will decode the remaining, says film director Onkar Diwadkar

“You’ll be pulled in on the low-tide, and chucked out in high-tide. Where waves form, it’s more dangerous there, beyond that the water sucks you in,” says Diwadkar, who needed his film to be genuine, “scientifically and aesthetically correct”. For that, he had consultants on the venture: for climate (the fishermen cooperative in Arnala in Mumbai’s Virar), and mental health (Dr Anand Nadkarni’s Institute for Psychological Health, in Thane, and their Maitra Helpline, run by Sulabha Subramaniam).

Subramaniam, 61, a former scientist and biopharma govt, took up skilled tele-counselling as Maitra’s coordinator, she consulted on the script of Still Alive, correcting technicalities, writing extra dialogues and subtitles.

“The criteria to diagnose is by a standardised manual: DSM (depression-sadness-melancholy). Melancholy is a personality trait; it’s a pervasive negative mood. Sadness is the feeling of loss and helplessness, causing disinterest and wanting to be left alone, and could be caused due to a trauma or trigger; but depression is an illness, goes far deeper. Symptoms are seen at the organic level, as the brain undergoes neuro-chemical changes, which may cause continuous low mood for more than six weeks, and needs proper diagnosis by a mental-health professional. It can be turned around by counselling and medication for a while. Counselling is less stigmatised than medication. Where there’s lack of knowledge, there’s fear. Wouldn’t one take medicines if one had, say, diabetes?” asks Subramaniam, the creator of Of Human Bonds: The Maitra Story (2008).

still alive, film festival, A nonetheless from the film

In the film, Meera’s disappointment – which results in her depression – arises from the picture she had of the particular person and of her expectation from the connection. “The brain is trying to look at what we want in our ideal/fantasy and fails to look at the person for what s/he is. The longer you live that fantasy, the harder you fall,” Subramaniam says. The poignant and non-judgemental, non-didactic experiential film step by step grows on you want Meera’s awakening to her consciousness at the top – not a sudden black-and-white transformation, however a sluggish realisation dawning on her as soon as the ocean throws her out, that life is price extra than simply damaged relationships. In a very noir-ish, Hitchcockian fashion, the sq. wooden-cabin body inside the display’s body act as a double “rear” window, by which the surface world – the digital camera, the viewers, and even the auteur as an onlooker – will get a glimpse into Meera’s thoughts: the journey from turbulence to subsequent calm. Diwadkar is indifferent from what he depicts and but has management over what he creates.

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