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Film review: Mad Max reboot 'Fury Road' teaches superhero films a thing or two about action

Visionary Australian director George Miller infuses his action spectacles with pacifism, environmentalism and feminism.

One of the master purveyors of the post-apocalyptic landscape where humans have been reduced to their natural animal states and will stake everything for mere survival is back with yet another eye-popping allegory. Visionary Australian director George Miller’s fourth Mad Max movie, made after a 30-year gap, is set in a dystopia marked by a severe shortage of water and natural energy resources, desertification, genetic engineering and a culture dedicated to war and the enslavement of women.

The first Mad Max film was an examination of outback anomie, the second one looked at severe fuel shortages, while the third (which was also the weakest) was set in a slave colony where pig excreta is converted into fuel to run humankind’s last outpost. Suggesting unconventional solutions for the pressing problems of the world that we are leaving behind for the future generations, Miller has managed to infuse his action spectacles with anti-war and pro-environment concerns that make them an effective companion in climate change debates.

Fury Road makes a  nod to Mad Max 2, in that it is one long road movie featuring a band of crazies chasing a lone vehicle containing the last  good people left on the planet. There are also elements from the third part, Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome, especially in the slave colony governed by genetic freak Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne, who played in the first Mad Max in 1979) and where Max (Tom Hardy) is initially held captive. Immortan Joe, who has a death mask for a face, and his chalk-white minions (called “war boys”) rule over the populace by controlling the water supply and replenish themselves by harvesting the blood of healthy humans. When Furiosa (Charlize Theron) escapes along with Immortan Joe’s wives, who are part of a programme to breed a pure, defect-free race, she sets into motion a dangerous, thrill-filled journey across an endless desert. Max and breakaway minion Nux (Nichloas Hoult) hop on for the ride, but these female road warriors prove that they are no wilting lilies in need of care.

Moral purity amidst the mayhem

Miller’s trademark absurdist humour pops up ever so often in the middle of the stunningly directed and relentless mayhem. “Don’t get addicted to water!” is one character’s advice to the parched slave population early on in the movie.

As Immortan Joe and his war boys set out for the hunt, they are accompanied by the soothing strains of heavy metal, delivered by a war boy who never loses his nerve or a string in the most chaotic of situations.

The 70 year-old director’s eye for inventive visuals has barely dimmed with age. The make-up and costumes of Immortan Joe and his war boys are as striking as the array of retrofitted trucks and bikes that make this franchise an original. The dialogue is as functional as in previous films, and purists might even complain that Fury Road’s characters talk a bit too much.

Amidst the breathtaking action and no holds-barred violence, much of it computer generated but nevertheless realistic, Miller holds on to the moral purity that marks the Mad Max franchise. In this movie, the women are the pillars of sanity, hope and bravery. In one of Fury Road’s most effective scenes, Max takes aim at a target but then realises that he will probably miss and gamely hands over his weapon to Furiosa.

Feminism on the battlefield? Miller’s filmography includes the two Babe films, about the talking pig, and the Happy Feet animation series. He has piled on a few minutes of running time and greater wordiness with every new Mad Max movie, and has raised the profile of Fury Road through the presence of Hollywood regulars such as Hardy and Theron. Fury Road is both in 2D and 3D, which makes the on-screen violence more immersive and immediate.

But Miller is also as attuned to the headlines as he is to the audience’s hunger for pure, elemental violence that goes all the way down the wire. Fury Road’s twinned themes of the search for racial purity and the impact of war on women chime perfectly with the times. Every Mad Max movie contains a simple truth: when all options run out and the world as we know has irrevocably changed, men descends into their true beastly selves. Thank the heavens for women.



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Changing the conversation around mental health in rural India

Insights that emerged from discussions around mental health at a village this World Mental Health Day.

Questioning is the art of learning. For an illness as debilitating as depression, asking the right questions is an important step in social acceptance and understanding. How do I open-up about my depression to my parents? Can meditation be counted as a treatment for depression? Should heartbreak be considered as a trigger for deep depression? These were some of the questions addressed by a panel consisting of the trustees and the founder of The Live Love Lough Foundation (TLLLF), a platform that seeks to champion the cause of mental health. The panel discussion was a part of an event organised by TLLLF to commemorate World Mental Health Day.

According to a National Mental Health Survey of India 2015-16, conducted by the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS), common mental disorders including depression, anxiety disorders and substance use disorders affect nearly 10% of the population, with 1 in 20 people in India suffering from depression. The survey reported a huge treatment gap, a problem that is spread far and wide across urban and rural parts of the country.

On 10th of October, trustees of the foundation, Anna Chandy, Dr. Shyam Bhat and Nina Nair, along with its founder, Deepika Padukone, made a visit to a community health project centre in Devangere, Karnataka. The project, started by The Association of People with Disability (APD) in 2010, got a much-needed boost after partnering with TLLLF 2 years ago, helping them reach 819 people suffering from mental illnesses and spreading its program to 6 Taluks, making a difference at a larger scale.

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During the visit, the TLLLF team met patients and their families to gain insights into the program’s effectiveness and impact. Basavaraja, a beneficiary of the program, spoke about the issues he faced because of his illness. He shared how people used to call him mad and would threaten to beat him up. Other patients expressed their difficulty in getting access to medical aid for which they had to travel to the next biggest city, Shivmoga which is about 2 hours away from Davangere. A marked difference from when TLLLF joined the project two years ago was the level of openness and awareness present amongst the villagers. Individuals and families were more expressive about their issues and challenges leading to a more evolved and helpful conversation.

The process of de-stigmatizing mental illnesses in a community and providing treatment to those who are suffering requires a strong nexus of partners to make progress in a holistic manner. Initially, getting different stakeholders together was difficult because of the lack of awareness and resources in the field of mental healthcare. But the project found its footing once it established a network of support from NIMHANS doctors who treated the patients at health camps, Primary Healthcare Centre doctors and the ASHA workers. On their visit, the TLLLF team along with APD and the project partners discussed the impact that was made by the program. Were beneficiaries able to access the free psychiatric drugs? Did the program help in reducing the distance patients had to travel to get treatment? During these discussions, the TLLLF team observed that even amongst the partners, there was an increased sense of support and responsiveness towards mental health aid.

The next leg of the visit took the TLLLF team to the village of Bilichodu where they met a support group that included 15 patients and caregivers. Ujjala Padukone, Deepika Padukone’s mother, being a caregiver herself, was also present in the discussion to share her experiences with the group and encouraged others to share their stories and concerns about their family members. While the discussion revolved around the importance of opening up and seeking help, the team brought about a forward-looking attitude within the group by discussing future possibilities in employment and livelihood options available for the patients.

As the TLLLF team honoured World Mental Health day, 2017 by visiting families, engaging with support groups and reviewing the successes and the challenges in rural mental healthcare, they noticed how the conversation, that was once difficult to start, now had characteristics of support, openness and a positive outlook towards the future. To continue this momentum, the organisation charted out the next steps that will further enrich the dialogue surrounding mental health, in both urban and rural areas. The steps include increasing research on mental health, enhancing the role of social media to drive awareness and decrease stigma and expanding their current programs. To know more, see here.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of The Live Love Laugh Foundation and not by the Scroll editorial team.