Lessons in Forgetting
Direction: Unni Vijayan
Actors: Adil Hussain, Maya Tideman
A man investigating an 'accident' that has left his daughter in a coma unravels horrifying truths. A fictitious coastal village in Tamil Nadu, called Minjikapuram, is the microcosm of an India steeped in patriarchy, where gender discrimination and sex selection are rampant.
It is a world we pretend doesn't exist, or belongs in newspaper reports, far from our glossy, urban lives. Lessons in Forgetting makes you confront these uncomfortable realities, with honesty, if not the impact or shock value that, say, a Dibakar Banerjee managed with Love, Sex Aur Dhokha (2010).
In certain ways, Malayali director Unni Vijayan's 2012 National Award winner (best English feature film) is the antithesis of a Bollywood potboiler. It lacks in production value (made, obviously, on a shoestring budget); the screenplay (adapted from Anita Nair's novel by the same name) is clunky, with dialogue that works on the page but not the screen; the actors playing fringe characters belong in a film-school project.
Yet the central story is powerful. And the characters have a human frailty that makes them believable. Smrithi (Maya Tideman) chances upon illegal activities at Minjikapuram when she travels there with a street play. She wants to fight them, even though her boyfriend discourages her. We learn the story through flashbacks, as Smrithi's father, Jak (Adil Hussain), pieces things together. In the end, the truth provides a sense of closure, if not a solution.
This is a film made for festivals. If it makes money at the box office, even the producers will be surprised. There is, after all, no masala, no Salman Khan-like hero who will beat up the baddies and save the day.