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Four sides of loneliness

A still from Vikas Chandra’s Maya.  

A recent obsession among filmmakers, especially those who prefer shorts, appears to be mortality, ageing and loneliness. While exploring these themes, the chosen subject is often the ageing of parents. Even as the middle-class adopts Western mores and lifestyles, they appear unable to completely break away from inherited traditions and values.

Four recent shorts tackle these themes in distinctly different ways.

In Vikas Chandra’s Maya, we see the debilitation and embarrassments of old age. As an independent young woman looks to marry the man of her choice, her mother’s illness threatens the independence that she finds solace in. Maya is occasionally difficult to watch, posing as it does a complex question — what exactly do we owe our parents?

Meditative short

Irupuram, a Malayalam film by Vipin P. Vijayan, is in many ways the opposite of Maya. The children have already left. An aged father inhabits an empty house and considers the final stretch of his journey. It is a meditative short made up of images and sounds more than words. Titled Two Sides in English, the film juxtaposes the father’s loneliness with his children’s matter-of-fact concern for him, and their separate lives. You cannot fault the children who seem happy to provide for him. But have they really got an antidote for his loneliness?

Adeeb Rais’s mildly manipulative Auntyji features Shabana Azmi as an old Parsi lady and Anmol Rodrigues (a well-known acid-attack survivor) in pivotal roles. Azmi wants a tattoo that her son scoffs at; Rodrigues wants to be known for more than just her scarred face. Their loneliness brings them together.

George Kora’s Last Day of Summer, another Malayalam short, allows you to empathise with the children who have left home. A young, mild-mannered son comes home to a stern paternal figure for a short visit. The tension between them is delicately filmed. Love simmers quietly under the surface, but the conflicts are more palpable. At one point the son reacts harshly to a rebuke; later he contritely massages his father’s feet.

Ironically, a more digitally connected world appears to have few solutions for loneliness. Britain appointed a Minister for Loneliness. In Japan, an entire industry has sprung to cater to the elderly and the lonely.

In Being Mortal, Atul Gawande’s remarkable book on care for the elderly, he writes: “It is not death that the very old tell me they fear. It is what happens short of death — losing their hearing, their memory, their best friends, their way of life. Philip Roth put it more bitterly in Everyman: “Old age is not a battle. Old age is a massacre.”

The writer is photographer and founder of The Indiestani Project, a poetography collaboration.

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Printable version | Jun 10, 2021 10:30:27 AM |

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