The 2016 Marathi film Kaasav (Turtle) by Sumitra Bhave and Sunil Sukhtankar has been added to the SonyLIV line-up to mark World Mental Health Day on October 10. However, the film’s sensitive treatment of depression goes beyond a single event in a calendar.
Kaasav begins with Manav (Alok Rajwade), a young man whose depression pushes him to attempt suicide. To his good fortune, he spotted and adopted by Janaki (Irawati Harshe), an amateur conservationist who recognises his condition all too well.
Herself a survivor of the storm that rages through the mind and cripples the body, Janaki brings Manav to her rented home in Devgad in Konkan. Alongside volunteering for an Olive Ridley sea turtle conservation programme, Janaki and her domestic worker Yadu (Kishor Kadam) attempt to nurse Manav back to good health.
It’s hardly easy, but it’s possible, Sumitra Bhave’s screenplay suggests. The unhurried narrative tackles some of the factors related to depression in the modern world – the erosion of a sense of community and family, an inability to keep up with rapid changes, a feeling of aching loneliness while being in a crowd. Nature is presented as a healing agent, and is represented by the life cycle of the turtle.
The tender and touching film rests on solid performances. Irawati Harshe radiates warmth and empathy as Janaki, who gently nudges Manav towards a better understanding of his condition. Alok Rajwade is outstanding as the patient who feels so out of touch that he sees self-erasure as the only solution.
The redoubtable Kishor Kadam, playing the earthy Yadu, is an excellent foil to Janaki. Yadu doesn’t always know how to handle Manav’s outbursts, but he understands human nature, which is all it takes, the film reminds us. The child actor Omkar Ghadi, playing a local boy who strikes up a friendship with Manav, is an adorably tubby presence.
Mohan Agashe, a psychiatrist alongside being an actor, and one of this film’s producers, has a lovely cameo as Janaki’s mentor Datta. Agashe has also produced and starred in Bhave’s final film Dithee, which stars Kishor Kadam as a grieving father. (Bhave died of a lung ailment in April.)
A memorable cameo by Devika Daftardar in Kaasav and Saket Kanetkar’s lilting music are bonuses, but the party is spoiled by the imperfect English subtitles and faulty spotting. The line “He doesn’t know how lucky he is”, which initially appears in an early scene, randomly pops up on the screen through the rest of the movie. SonyLIV would do well to excise this irritant from its platform.
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