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Atmiyo Swajan: Diffused focus

A film that looks at the transforming equations in our urban societies and the pains that it can cause to those facing up to the harsher realities of these painful situations. And is euthanasia a way out of this situation.

india Updated: Jul 24, 2003 11:37 IST

Atmiyo Swajan
Director: Raja Sen

Coming across even an article on euthanasia is rare, let alone a complete, and rather long, feature film. So the central theme of Raja Sen's Atmiyo Swajan certainly comes as a surprise to most.

Innocuously titled Atmiyo Swajanor 'Relatives,' the film looks as much at the intra-family equations of Kolkata's Choudhury joint family.

At the head of the family is the patriarch, Buddhadev Choudhury, strict, principled, and as he ages, also detached from his surroundings. Whether this is because he wishes, or his circumstances make him is something the film tries to explore. But he is an impressive central character, who just cannot easily accept all that is going wrong around him.

He and his wife Manorama, played by two legends of Bangla cinema, Soumitro Chatterjee and Supriya Devi, find their world collapsing even as they are unable to do anything.

Though all the sons and their families stay together, the emotional bonding is frayed. The children are increasingly drifting away despite the couple's efforts to keep them together. Though the three sons all stay in separate units of the same house, alienation is apparent. The daughters, both married, have marital problems of their own, causing additional anxiety to the parents.

But probably emerges most starkly is the forced conversations that they have each other. Whereas the parents would probably want love and togetherness to be the bonding factors for the family, it is individual self-interests that actually links them. And when those clash, the real desires are exposed - something the parents can accept with difficulty.

Buddhadev has been very taken up the idea of euthanasia, and he persuades Manorama to take the step too. And as they about to pop the pills comes the news of the younger son-in-law having met with as serious accident. Manorama collapses, and is taken to the nursing home. A cerebral attack is diagnosed, and doctors give slim chances of survival. When Buddhadev is conveyed the news, he unhesitatingly ends his life, thinking they will be together again soon. While Manorama survives to come back to her house a widow…

Part of the Notions of Solitude section at Cinefan, the film has a delicate portrayal of the how ageing can be a process attendant with pains that are a somewhat expected but nevertheless have the capacity to do much damage.

It is not just the theme that is a plus for the film, other factors - the plot, adapted from a story by Samaresh Majumdar, the impressive cast, fairly detailed characterization, and a look some of the very real problems that ageing brings.

Unfortunately all of this is overshadowed by the length of the film, 140 minutes - almost as if the director could bear to yield the editing scissors enough. Some of the moments are stretched and rather intrusive. The melodramatic element too is occasionally highlighted beyond the requirement.

The film ends up by examining as much the relations within the family as much as whether euthanasia is acceptable or not. The director makes a fairly strong case for it for most of the film, while the end reverses all the former arguments. Probably too much is attempted within a single film, which causes the focus to be diffused.

First Published: Jul 21, 2003 17:47 IST