The secrets of a long marriage? Love, of course, but also tolerance, compromise and an acceptance of the curveballs thrown by the passage of time, suggests the documentary series My Love.
Inspired by Korean filmmaker Jin Moyoung’s acclaimed documentary My Love, Don’t Cross That River, about a couple married for 76 years, the Netflix series travels to six countries to unravel the mysteries of long-lasting unions. India is on the list through the story of Satyabhama and Satva, who have been married for 42 years.
Jin is among the executive producers of the series, which has entries from the United States of America, Spain, South Korea, Japan, Brazil and India. Each of the directors spent a year with their subjects. Whether we are watching a Japanese wife caring for her Hansen disease-afflicted husband or a Brazilian lesbian couple dreaming of getting away from their favela, the series maintains a uniform tone of celebration.
The emphasis is on feelgood and heart-warming moments gleamed through an observational approach and unobtrusive camerawork.
The Indian chapter is by Deepti Kakkar and Fahad Mustafa, who directed the documentary Katiyabaaz, about electricity theft in Kanpur, in 2013. Satyabhama and Satva are cotton farmers in Pokhari in Maharashtra’s Beed district. The region’s historical problems with drought and migration caused by crop failure cannot but help find their way into the narrative.
Every chapter has tender scenes that bring out the deep connection between the couples. In the case of Satyabhama and Satva, we see the emotional intimacy forged over decades of companionship. Despite appearing brusque and not as demonstrative as the other pairs, this traditional couple find ways to express their love, whether through a head massage, the act of holding hands, or tending to an injury or an illness.
Glimpses of what the charming couple has endured in the early years of their marriage emerge from the conversations between the couple and their two sons and daughters-in-law. Some ghosts appear to have exorcised, but new demons refuse to go away. The monsoon bring much-needed water and beauty to the region, but also ruins the crop. The sons move away to work in factories, leaving the aging couple to tend to their grandchildren and worry about their own health.
“I am at peace when we are together,” Satva says about his wife in the film – a plain and yet profound declaration of ardour. In a society in which separation or divorce isn’t usually an option, this generation of long-lasting partners appear to have made their peace with each other and their surroundings. The sweetness of watching the elderly couple hobble their way through their fields and village is tempered by the realities of the never-ending challenges faced by farmers and the missing domestic details of a past that remain hidden from view.