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‘Astu’, a state of acceptance

Mohan Agashe Photo: Sangeetha Devi Dundoo

Mohan Agashe Photo: Sangeetha Devi Dundoo   | Photo Credit: Sangeetha Devi Dundoo

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Mohan Agashe on how he became the default producer of the acclaimed Marathi film ‘Astu’

‘Astu’ in Marathi stands simply for ‘so be it’. It’s this stage of acceptance that the principal characters in the film arrive at when they learn that the retired Sanskrit scholar is now staring in the face of Alzheimer’s. Starring veteran actor Mohan Agashe, Ila Bhatey, Om Bhutkar, Iravati Harshe and Amruta Subhash among others, this film, directed by Sumitra Bhave and Sunil Sukhtankar, was screened in the city to mark World Alzheimer’s Month by Alzheimer’s and Related Disorders Society of India (ARDSI) Hyderabad Deccan and Sanskar.

Mohan Agashe, who plays the retired scholar Chakrapani Shastri, says the film is more than a study material on Alzheimer’s. “It’s a story about life, love and death,” he says, speaking to us during his visit to the city.

Ira plays the daughter trying to cope with her father’s condition with the help of her husband, a doctor, and the viewers get more than an exploration of a father-daughter bond. Agashe, too, draws from his vast experience as a psychiatrist while portraying the character though he explains, “a lot of what I have observed stays sub-conscious.”

The team has been having screenings to a focussed audience in different cities and Agashe is endeared with the response. “After watching the film, a few among the audience tell us that they can now relate to the condition someone in their family had faced. This awareness will help change attitudes,” he says.

Agashe hasn’t watched Leela Samson’s portrayal of Bhavani, the classical singer slipping into Alzheimer’s in Mani Ratnam’s O Kadhal Kanmani, but says, “Mani Ratnam is a sensible filmmaker who has the knack of presenting an issue with entertainment, going by his previous films. The Malayalam film Thanmatra which starred Mohanlal addressed this issue well, and even Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s black talked about Alzheimer’s. Each of these films is like a different blend of Scotch, the authenticity varies. Our film has been certified by doctors who deal with Alzheimer’s.”

The idea of a project that deals with this condition was pitched to Agashe by a Marathi short filmmaker. “I liked the idea but I wasn’t happy with the script. I felt it wouldn’t serve the purpose. They tried to develop the script but it had its limitations. Later, I got these people to meet Sumitra who had just completed another film. In a month’s time, a new script was developed and it turned out to be a full-fledged feature,” he recalls.

When the team completed shooting, a co-producer backed out leaving the postproduction in a limbo. The veteran actor contributed from his pension and provident fund to complete the work. “I am a co-producer by default, not by design,” he says.

Astu has received warm reviews and has been invited to many film festivals, but is yet to recover its investment. “Recovering the cost is essential if we want to make another film. Being a producer, I got to learn a lot about the trade,” says Agashe.

He says the distribution system is feudal, and doesn’t allow enough time for a niche film to grow on word of mouth response.

At the moment, he’s pleased with taking the film to focussed audience, who after watching, are willing to contribute. “Those who come to watch Astu may not be the same as those who watch Dabangg, but we have a huge population and there are enough people who would like different cinema,” he says.

The problem, says Agashe, lies in the mental conditioning to think of a book as educative and expect nothing but entertainment from cinema. “When one fails to put on the education glasses while watching a film, one misses the subtext,” he says.

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Printable version | Oct 18, 2018 9:38:03 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/astu-a-state-of-acceptance/article7702215.ece

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