I had just completed watching Dahaad and particularly impressed by the acting of Gulshan Devaiah. I had watched Choked earlier of Saiyami Kher. The trailer of 8Am Metro showed trains and rains. All of it together, seemed like enough reason to go watch the film. To get back to theatre since the pandemic, grief and loss.
A sparsely occupied theatre often times is the sign of a really good, relevant, non-opulent movie. That’s my kind. Devoid of the pretence of a glittering glamorous world where good wins over evil by engaging in bloody battles, and they live happily ever after. I like films that go beyond the popular and the binary.
The film was an absolutely joy in its celebration of the mundane, of commonness, of the unpredictable sources of unconditional understanding that still makes us hopeful. Sprinkled all over with the beautiful poetry by Gulzaar saab. So many times I wanted to rewind back so that I could hear the poem once again.
This story is about the many faces of love. Our society burdens love. There are layers and layers of prescription on what, whom and how to love, what is acceptable, pre-fabricated expectations just like schooling, what to become in life, the successful images of a happy family where everything fits into pre-existing slots. The relationships become so stretched, subjected to litmus tests over and over again, that the radiation harms more than the disease, that it continuously snaps at the seams, resembling a worn out sheet, patched several times over. And worse still, it undermines friendship. Once married, that role assigns and dominates the place of all other relationships.
The story unfolds during the commute by metro train. The conversations happen openly in public, not exclusive or clandestine, as two strangers find solace in the supposedly temporary acquaintance, admitting their vulnerability, fears, and why admittance is such a struggle. Mental health, depression, panic attack, being suicidal, the story bares it all, for the society to open its eyes to why does it happen, why it must not be hushed, why it is not a dead-end, there is cure, there is help, there is understanding, there is empathy, if only we allow it to emerge from under the carpet and accept it as something that happened, accept the triggers and trauma and acknowledge our responsibility in making mental health an open topic of conversation.
Why do we feel we need to hide spending time with someone other than the spouse? Why do we make that relationship so fragile? It warmed my heart to hear the husband say “tell me only if I can be of help”, when the wife wants to bare it all, apprehensive that what she has done can be relegated to being deceitful.
But wait, before you think the climax is over and slot it as any other film and an un-common friendship bordering an extra marital affair, there is more. Wait.
It’s a film that pleasantly surprises by mentioning Verrier Elwin and other authors, indigenous communities who live non-judgemental un-prescriptive lives, drapes its characters in local sarees and simple cotton shirts, shows us tiny book stores in the alley where the store owner knows each and every book, gives us the pleasure of sipping coffee by the roadside in steel tumblers. A journey of Hyderabad, visuals of the bustling lanes around Charminar, Golkonda fort, Chowmahalla, Faluknama palace, the rocks, the buildings, the Irani chai, the reminder of our daily lives, as lived by the characters of the film.
Grief is both deeply personal, and as common as the air we breathe. We look for the lost person in the folds of clothes once worn, holding on to the scents of what it was once. We wish we had spent more time. What hits the hardest is the forever-ness of loss, the place of no return.
As I left the hall, it felt like someone just caressed your soul and told you that this is the truth of the world you inhabit. On the spectrum of happiness to sorrow, truth to lies, and many such binaries that constitute the book of rules, our lives in reality are more likely to be like this story that hangs out in your own backyard and moves in the neighbourhood with amazingly sincere lessons for life.
At this point of Time, where art is politicised and censored, this is a film that needs to be made tax free and promoted for its attempt to de-stigmatise mental health, trauma, depression and panic attack. It must be watched by more people and much talked about.